BYU researchers help firefighters predict fire patterns

Local News

PROVO (ABC4 News) – Firefighters need every possible tool at their disposal when it comes to saving homes and lives; BYU’s Chemical Engineering team is working on another tool for that belt: the ability to predict where a fire is going.

Tom Fletcher is the Chemical Engineering Department Chair. and the project lead, he explained, “We are doing fundamental research to focus down on what’s really happening in a fire.”
Specifically, what’s happening in Utah fires. 

“Especially in shrubs like the ones here in Utah, shrubs burn differently and we’re wondering if it’s related to the chemistry so we’re looking at the chemistry of what comes off the plant that will eventually burn, ” Fletcher continued. 

Using imaging and composition technology, the team is dissecting how fires burn through specific types of vegetation and how fire builds on itself. The goal here is to be able to give firefighters on the ground a plan. 

“A fire spread model that could help the firefighters make decisions on where is this fire going, where can firefighters be safe, which houses should we save, or can we plan a fire in advance that would mitigate a huge fire.”

Their research is being funded in part by the government, hoping to protect military bases. But the applications could be endless. 

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