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PhD Student
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Wildland-Urban-Interface Modelling
Wildland-Urban-Interface Modelling

Fire management research at Imperial College, London

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Imperial College London to attend a five-month (May-September 2017) visiting PhD student position. The project was concerned with developing the framework required for Wildland-Urban-Interface (WUI), modelling which incorporates features of fire, pedestrian, and traffic modelling. The aim was to understand how modelling can assist in a safe evacuation and improve emergency responses.

The research was sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US with the Fire Protection Research Foundation at the US National Fire Protection Assocation as grant administrator and was split between three teams at Imperial College London; Lund University; and the National Research Council, Canada. I was part of the Imperial group under the supervision of Prof Guillermo Rein. We reviewed a range of recent wildfire events such as the Fort McMurray fire, 2016; the Haifa fire, 2016; the Vӓstmanland fire, 2014; and the Black Saturday fire, 2009. These fires occurred at the WUI and involved massive evacuation, injuries or deaths.

The project assessed different aspects of fire events to understand the current preparatory response and to discover the features required in WUI models. This would ensure that the authorities and community can manage a safe evacuation of people, and reduce the impact of a fire event. The work argues that an integrated approach requires consideration and a combination of all three crucial components of WUI evacuation, namely: fire spread, pedestrian, and traffic movement. The report includes a systematic review of each model component and the critical features needed for the integration into a comprehensive toolkit.

I also had the opportunity to attend the 12th IAFSS conference at Lund University, Sweden, to present our preliminary work on short-range firebrand transport. In this study, we verify a numerical model for spatial distribution of firebrands. I was able to spend quality time with Imperial Hazelab students working in different fields of fire science and I got the opportunity to be involved in a large-scale experiment of a travelling fire in a building in Warsaw.

I express my gratitude to both Dr Richard Thornton and former PhD student manager Lyndsey Wright for recommending the position to our research group.  Richard and Lyndsey encouraged me to apply for the position in a similar way to the CRC professional experience program for PhD students. I also pass on my gratitude to my PhD supervisors, A/Prof Khalid Moinuddin and Dr Duncan Sutherland of Victoria University and former research director of the CRC, Michael Rumsewicz for supporting my application.

The report is available on the Fire Protection Research Foundation platform at NFPA.

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