Ignition and burning mechanisms of live spruce needles

Adnan Darwish Ahmad, Ahmad M. Abubaker, Ahmad Salaimeh, Nelson K. Akafuah, Mark Finney, Jason M. Forthofer, Kozo Saito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


Live foliage for some tree and shrub species can support flaming fire spread at much higher moisture content than dead fuel materials. However, the role of live fuels in forest fires has been controversial in the past decades. Although ignition and spread statistical data for live and dead fuels exist in the literature, a clear understanding of the fundamental difference in the burning behavior is missing. To illuminate the role of live fuel on forest fire spreading, a laboratory ignition experiment was designed to examine the burning behavior of live Norway spruce needles. A Schlieren-Infrared combined measurement apparatus was developed with a spatial resolution of 0.75 mm and a time resolution of 0.0025 s, to visualize/measure the ignition behavior of live fuels. Schlieren and IR images revealed that the ejection of live fuel volatiles can alter the flame direction and induce previously unaccounted heating of the nearby fuel. Depending on the conditions, these interferences could heat and modify the heat flux received by the adjacent fuels. To analyze each of these outcomes, a scaling analysis using the law approach was performed. First, theoretical equations were developed and validated against a set of previously published experimental data. After the characteristic equations were verified, we used them to assess the volatile ejection phenomenon. We found that adjacent fuels were preheated by hot volatiles ejected from the heated live needle, and direct flame contact ignited the adjacent fuels. Our IR experiments confirmed the outcomes of the scaling analysis. The rapid ejection of volatiles was also found to propel burning needles far from the burning branch, resulting in micro-spotting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121371
StatePublished - Nov 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by USDA Forest Service under grant number 17-CS-11221637-099. We thank Binit Singh for his assistance in the infrared calibration experiments, and Tianxiang Li for his invaluable comments and editing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Fire spreading
  • Forest fire
  • IR imaging
  • Live fuels
  • Scaling analysis
  • Schlieren

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (all)
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Organic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Ignition and burning mechanisms of live spruce needles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this