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Spotlight: Burning Questions: Wildfire Research

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Spotlight: Burning Questions: Wildfire Research

Date Published:
Thursday, August 11, 2011

During the summer, dry conditions can result in wildfires, such as those raging in eastern North Carolina and other parts of the country. Lightning strikes, campfires, outdoor grills, candles, discarded cigarettes or Fourth of July fireworks are all possible sources of wildfires that uncontrolled could threaten residential areas.

Researchers from the Lee College of Engineering Fire Safety Engineering Technology (FSET) program have conducted a series of studies to determine how best to protect structures from approaching wildfires. Last year, researchers completed a three-year study, and now another two-year study is under way to investigate the effectiveness of wetting agents, gels and foil wraps in protecting structures. Various siding and roofing materials are being tested in small-scale laboratory and full-scale burn tests.

Jozef Urbas, associate professor of fire safety and one of the project’s principal investigators, noted, "Fire behavior is very difficult to accurately mimic in small-scale lab settings. We were confident in the methods we had developed for the lab tests but still had to verify our results with full-scale tests."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Forest Service are sponsoring the research. Urbas and his fellow researchers also collaborate with the Charlotte Fire Department, using the Charlotte Fire Training Academy to conduct tests.

The Lee College of Engineering Fire Safety Engineering Technology Department offers degree programs leading to a Bachelor of Science in Fire Safety Engineering Technology and a Master of Science in Fire Protection and Administration. The programs are directed toward individuals who are seeking positions within the fire service and those preparing for work in fire protection-related occupations.