2022 journal article

Quantifying rare events in spotting: How far do wildfires spread?

Fire Safety Journal.

co-author countries: United States of America πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
author keywords: Firebrand transport; Spotting; Monte Carlo method; Rare event simulation; Large deviation theory
Source: ORCID
Added: July 23, 2022

Spotting refers to the transport of burning pieces of firebrand by wind which, at the time of landing, may ignite new fires beyond the direct ignition zone of the main fire. Spot fires that occur far from the original burn unit are rare but have consequential ramifications since their prediction and control remains challenging. To facilitate their prediction, we examine three methods for quantifying the landing distribution of firebrands: crude Monte Carlo simulations, importance sampling, and large deviation theory (LDT). In particular, we propose an LDT method that accurately and parsimoniously quantifies the low probability events at the tail of the landing distribution. In contrast, Monte Carlo and importance sampling methods are most efficient in quantifying the high probability landing distances near the mode of the distribution. However, they become computationally intractable for quantifying the tail of the distribution due to the large sample size required. We also show that the most probable landing distance grows linearly with the mean characteristic velocity of the wind field. Furthermore, defining the relative landed mass as the proportion of mass landed at a given distance from the main fire, we derive an explicit formula which allows computing this quantity as a function of the landing distribution at a negligible computational cost. We numerically demonstrate our findings on two prescribed wind fields.