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Fuelbreaks design: from CFD modelling to operational tools


Dimensioning a fuelbreak remains always a challenging problem. For a long time, this problem was tackled using an empirical approach from the experience of operational users such as the fire fighters and the foresters. During the last decades, new approaches coming from fire safety engineering have completed the set of tools adapted to study this problem. These tools are all based on physical considerations, more or- less sophisticated. The simplest ones, consist in assimilating the flame as a radiant panel, calculating the distribution of radiant heat flux as a function of the distance separating the flame to a potential target and defining at what distance this heat flux reached a critical threshold level susceptible to produce damages on this target (pain for people or ignition for materials). The most complex ones, consist in solving the conservation equations (mass, momentum, energy ...) governing the behaviour of complex coupled problem formed by the vegetation, the flame front and the surrounding atmosphere. This new generation of engineering tool, based on CFD approach allows to directly predict the behaviour of a fire front propagating toward a fuelbreak, in order to evaluate its efficiency as a function of the amount of surface fuel (grass, shrubs) removed to reduce locally the fuel load and therefore the intensity of an incoming fire. These two approaches are fully complementary, only the first one has the potentiality to be spread operationally on the field, whereas the second one can contribute to improve the first one and to study with more detail some very sensitive situations such as those encountered in the wildland urban interface (WUI). The main part of this study concerns numerical simulations of the propagation of a fire front through a homogeneous vegetation layer (a grassland) in the vicinity of a fuelbreak represented by a band more or less wide inside which all the fuel was removed. The simulations were performed using a fully physical wildfire model (FIRESTAR3D), three variable parameters were considered in this study: the 1m open wind speed (U1 ranged between 3 and 10 m/s), the fuel height (HFuel ranged between 0.25 and 1m) and the fuelbreak width (LFB). With these conditions, the simulations covered a large range of values of the Byram’s convective number NC (0.3 < NC < 60) in order to explore wind as well driven fires (NC < 2) and plume dominated fires (NC > 10). The 72 simulations carried out in this study have been classified in three categories: 1/ Propagation (if the fire has crossed the fuelbreak with a propagation after); 2/ Overshooting or Marginal (if the fire has crossed the fuelbreak without a propagation after); 3/ No-propagation (if the fuelbreak has stopped the fire). The main objective of this study was to determine the optimal fuelbreak width LFBx separating between the Propagation and the No-propagation regimes, in order to generalize the conclusion, the results have been presented in dimensionless form (similitude theory) in representing as an example the ratio LFBx/HFuel versus the Byram’s convective number NC.

Dates and versions

hal-03875340 , version 1 (28-11-2022)



Nicolas Frangieh, Gilbert Accary, Jean-Louis Rossi, Dominique Morvan, François-Joseph Chatelon, et al.. Fuelbreaks design: from CFD modelling to operational tools. Advances in Forest Fire Research 2022, 1.ª Edição, Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, pp.222-226, 2022, ⟨10.14195/978-989-26-2298-9_36⟩. ⟨hal-03875340⟩
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