The Mysterious Wildland Fury

Page 9 of 12

The trained firefighter knows about what is called “flashover.” In say a house fire where furniture and other household items are heated in a closed space with limited oxygen, there is a build up of pyrolysis products. When these products cannot find enough oxygen to burn, they rise and concentrate near the ceiling. Then if more oxygen enters the room, say from a door opening or someone smashing a window, the unburnt gases ignite in an explosive manner. But in an open forest area sometimes over bare earth and/or in thin air? Here are some interesting stories:

  • The South Canyon Colorado fire, 1994, 14 firefighters were killed who tried to escape as the fire raced up the canyon towards them. The evidence hints of a sudden and explosive event.
  • The McDonald Creek Glacier National Park fire, 1998, a sudden explosion from the fire front, “shot forward 150 meters at 100 kilometers per hour.”
  • The Canberra Australia firestorm, 2003, the unexpected ferocity of the blaze killed four people and destroyed almost 500 homes.
  • Scientists are in debate as to the foundation of this type of phenomenon. Understanding this issue is under investigation as these strange events could make the difference between life and death. Clearly a technique is needed to predetermine the possibility of such an event and to immediately select the best way to mitigate the problem.
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