CORVALLIS, OR (KPTV) - With wildfire season well underway, a team of researchers at Oregon State University is working to build a better understanding of how wildfires behave. They’re specifically studying what are called “firebrands,” basically sparks and embers that can spread fire from one place to another.
The most recent research is funded through a grant from the National Institute of Science and Technology. Researchers at OSU are doing field tests, basically burning a variety of trees and shrubs in a safe place outdoors, and then recording how many firebrands they release and where they spread.
It’s not the first-time firebrands have been studied, but the researchers say they have a bigger volume of data, which makes it more reliable. The hope is they can use the findings from their studies to add data to existing models that predict fire behavior and help firefighters more quickly and efficiently respond to wildfires.
If you’re looking for a recent example of how firebrands can spread fire, they say it’s likely they played some role in last year’s devastating wildfires. During the Eagle Creek fire there was evidence of firebrands that spread four miles, crossing the Columbia River, and starting a new fire on the other side.