Simulating Potential Impacts of Fuel Treatments on Fire Behavior and Evacuation Time of the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.3390/fire5020037
Fuel break effectiveness in wildland-urban interface (WUI) is not well understood during downslope wind-driven fires even though various fuel treatments are conducted across the western United States. The aim of this paper is to examine the efficacy of WUI fuel breaks under the influence of strong winds and dry fuels, using the 2018 Camp Fire as a case study. The operational fire growth model Prometheus was used to show: (1) downstream impacts of 200 m and 400 m wide WUI fuel breaks on fire behavior and evacuation time gain; (2) how the downstream fire behavior was affected by the width and fuel conditions of the WUI fuel breaks; and (3) the impacts of background wind speeds on the efficacy of WUI fuel breaks. Our results indicate that WUI fuel breaks may slow wildfire spread rates by dispersing the primary advancing fire front into multiple fronts of lower intensity on the downstream edge of the fuel break. However, fuel break width mattered. We found that the lateral fire spread and burned area were reduced downstream of the 400 m wide WUI fuel break more effectively than the 200 m fuel break. Further sensitivity tests showed that wind speed at the time of ignition influenced fire behavior and efficacy of management interventions.