UC Merced researchers hoping to better predict fire behavior

The team is in the midst of building a fire lab to study flame geometry while introducing factors such as moisture and wind.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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Researchers at UC Merced are studying in scientific detail how wildfires spread.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Researchers at UC Merced are studying in scientific detail how wildfires spread.

Data continues to add up in the fight against the Oak Fire in Mariposa County.

More than 30 square miles have burned.

It's hoped research conducted at UC Merced can help better predict fire behavior in the future.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Jeannette heads the study.

"A big part of fire behavior research uses image processing because the geometry of a flame gives us a lot of not only visual, but physical information, about how a fire is behaving," says Cobian-Iniguez.

UC Merced is in the midst of building a fire lab to study flame geometry while introducing factors such as moisture and wind.

Physics and mathematics results are extracted from the simulated experiments.

"So my group is designing some computer vision algorithm that takes videos from an experiment and processes the video to give us information like rate of spread," says Cobian-Iniguez.

She has worked with foresters from the US Forest Service and technicians with wildfire fighting experience to get a better understanding of the factors which need to be considered.

Her team looks forward to taking their work outside the lab.

"The next stage of our study, we would like to start understanding how our algorithm performs in outdoor settings."

The team is implementing engineering tools to improve fire estimation and prediction.

They also published a study on how the 2020 wildfire season impacted air quality in the Valley.

UC Merced is close to completing its own fire lab on campus.

Next month, an outdoor lab is expected to be ready to conduct experiments in fire behavior.

For the latest developments, photos and videos on the Oak Fire, click here.