Ignition of Combustible Fuel Beds by Hot Particles: An Experimental and Theoretical Study

Rory M. Hadden, Sarah Scott, Chris Lautenberger, A. Carlos Fernandez-Pello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The process of spotting occurs in wildland fires when fire-lofted embers or hot particles land downwind, leading to ignition of new, discrete fires. This common mechanism of wildland fire propagation can result in rapid spread of the fire, potentially causing property damage and increased risk to life safety of both fire fighters and civilians. Despite the increasing frequency and losses in wildland fires, there has been relatively little research on ignition of fuel beds by embers and hot particles. In this work, an experimental and theoretical study of ignition of homogeneous cellulose fuel beds by hot metal particles is undertaken. This type of well-characterized laboratory fuel provides a more controllable fuel bed than natural fuels, and the use of hot metal particles simplifies interpretation of the experiments by reducing uncertainty due to unknown effects of the ember combustion reaction. Spherical steel particles with diameters in the range from 0.8 mm to 19.1 mm heated to temperatures between 500°C and 1300°C are used in the experiments. A relationship between the size of the particle and temperature required for flaming or smoldering ignition is found. These results are used to assess a simplified analysis based on hot-spot ignition theory to determine the particle size-temperature relationship required for ignition of a cellulose fuel bed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-355
Number of pages15
JournalFire Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Ignition
  • Spotting
  • Ember
  • Hot particle
  • Hot-spot ignition

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