Horizontal Roll Vortices and Crown Fires

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  • 1 North Central Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, East Lansing, MI 48823
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Abstract

Observational evidence from nine crown fires suggests that horizontal roll vortices are a major mechanism in crown-fire spread. Post-burn aerial photography indicates that unburned tree-crown streets are common with crown fire. Investigation of the understory of these crown streets after two fires showed uncharred tree trunks along a center line. This evidence supports a hypothesis of vortex action causing strong downward motion of air along the streets. Additionally, photographs of two ongoing crown fires show apparent horizontal roll vortices. Discussion also includes laboratory and numerical studies in fluid dynamics that may apply to crown fires.

Abstract

Observational evidence from nine crown fires suggests that horizontal roll vortices are a major mechanism in crown-fire spread. Post-burn aerial photography indicates that unburned tree-crown streets are common with crown fire. Investigation of the understory of these crown streets after two fires showed uncharred tree trunks along a center line. This evidence supports a hypothesis of vortex action causing strong downward motion of air along the streets. Additionally, photographs of two ongoing crown fires show apparent horizontal roll vortices. Discussion also includes laboratory and numerical studies in fluid dynamics that may apply to crown fires.

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