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Natural fire spread model: dynamic modelling of the spread of a fire

About the Netherlands Institute for Safety

Before now, in the Netherlands, there has never been a model that predicts the growth of a natural fire reliably, in real time and realistically. The fire brigade is accustomed to working with statistical templates and guidelines, which do work but, for example, do not take into account the current weather situation at the location of the fire. The Natural Fire Spread Model, developed by the Netherlands Institute for Safety (IFV) along with Efectis Nederland, various safety regions and Geodan, will bring about a change to that.

For which requirement would this be the solution?

  • Better predictions: in a specific area, where would be the highest risk of a fire spreading?
  • Better training: how did a real natural fire progress and what conclusions can we draw from that?
  • Better control: which locations are/are not suitable for operational deployment?

Unique attributes of the solution

The natural fire spread model:

  • takes into account the weather situation at the site of the fire and the weather in the preceding days;
  • anticipates changing weather conditions;
  • includes in the calculation the type of vegetation in the affected area (based on generally accessible data);
  • can be linked to existing geographic information systems (GIS), this makes the information easily usable for further analyses.

How does it work?

The service can be used through a web-based GIS environment. The website includes all basic functionality to start a new natural fire simulation and to retrieve and view the results. It is also possible to share the results of the model through a crisis management system. The service offers additional options for performing spatial analyses such as:

  • the speed at which the fire reaches a specific location;
  • the comparison with older natural fire data;
  • the number of inhabitants or holiday-makers within the natural fire contour;
  • the presence (and number) of vulnerable groups of people.

What are the benefits?

The model has undergone extensive testing and was successfully used during the natural fire at the Groote Heide in Leende on the 26th of March 2013. The fire took hold in a poorly accessible area at dusk. Despite the fact that a calculation by the model is an approximation of reality, the result of the calculation was very close to the actual spread.