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The Combustion

Process

What basic elements are needed for fire to occur?

THE FIRE TRIANGLE

OXYGEN

FIRE
combustion
FUEL

HEAT

COMBUSTION PROCESS
A chemical reaction
FUEL: PHOTOSYNTHESIS
(storage of chemical energy)

Solar Energy + CO2 + H2O

(C6H10O5)n + O + Ignition CO2 + H2O + HEAT


Temperature (+ gases + char + ash)

Decay

COMBUSTION
(conversion of stored energy to thermal,
radiant, kinetic energy)

THE PHASES OF COMBUSTION


1) preignition
2) ignition
3) combustion
4) extinction

Preignition (pre-heating)
Pyrolysis
Thermal degradation of the fuel = heat divided
( ~250 355 C )
char (low temperatures = glowing)
tar (high temperatures = volatile gases = flaming)
mineral ash (inorganics)

THE PHASES OF COMBUSTION

2. IGNITION
Transition between preignition and combustion
- Low temps = charring glowing combustion
- High temps = gases flaming combustion

2 types of natural ignition:


1. Lightning
2. Spontaneous ignition
Lightning
- High temperature within column of hot gases
- 100 cloud-to-ground discharges/sec on Earth
- Only 0.1 - .001 of strikes = wildfire

Ignition continued
Spontaneous ignition
Pile heating (heat liberated faster than lost to surroundings)
- chip piles: fresh chips + foliage, moisture > 20%
- pile > 1m in height
Microbial activity = respiration CO2 + H2O + HEAT
Requirements for ignition: Oxygen + formation of char
- surface oxidation of char = smoldering
- smoldering heat continuous pyrolysis (flaming)

PHASES OF COMBUSTION

3. COMBUSTION 2 types:
- Smoldering / glowing
- Flaming

Smoldering or glowing combustion


Surface fires
- Lower temps, but longer duration
Ground fires in organic soil horizons
smolder for mo/yrs (potential for re-ignition)
High smoke production (particulates, CO)

TYPES OF COMBUSTION continued

Flaming combustion
Volatile gases mix with air = flames
High temperatures necessary (425-480 C)
In general, fewer emissions than smoldering fires

THE PHASES OF COMBUSTION


4. Extinction: termination of combustion
Two important factors can cause smoldering to cease:
- Inorganic materials (ash) absorb heat but do not
oxidize reduces the total amount of heat
- Not enough heat produced to cause vaporization in
in moist fuels (no more available fuel)

What basic elements are needed for fire to occur?

THE FIRE TRIANGLE

OXYGEN

FIRE
combustion
FUEL

HEAT

Three methods of heat


transfer

Three Heat Transfer Methods


Conduction:
Transfer of heat from one molecule to another.

Example: touching your hand to a hot object


Conduction is the only means of transferring heat to the
interior of fuels (wood, litter, duff).
High-density fuels (green wood) vs. low-density fuels (litter, decayed wood)
High density fuels have greater conductivity more heat
needed to raise temperature of surface layer

Radiation:
Transmission of heat by electromagnetic waves.

Examples of radiation:

Heat from sun, fire place, stove

Contact between radiation source and affected body not necessary


Example: preheating of fuels ahead of fire front
Absorption of radiation by woody fuels
only by thin layer at surface (rest by conduction)

Convection:
Transfer of heat by
movement of a gas
or liquid (air).
Hot air moves vertically
(exceptions: winds, slopes)
Examples: heating a pot of
water, smoke from a fire.
Important for pre-heating of
shrub layers and crown
canopy

What Factors
can Increase
Heat Transfer?

Factors that Increase Heat Transfer

Flames are brought


closer to the fuel
due to slope.

The wind pushes the


flames over...

Wind

...bringing the
flames closer
to the fuel.

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