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WA joint seminar with IBS - Dr Smaila Sanni

  • 11 Aug 2020
  • 5:45 PM - 7:00 PM (WAST)
  • Perth, WA (online)
  • 218


Registration is closed

Announcing a special joint meeting of the Statistical Society of Australia, W.A. Branch and The Australasian Region of the International Biometric Society
6:00 ᴘᴍ (AWST) on Tuesday 11th August 2020
Zoom Online Meeting (Join from 5:45 ᴘᴍ for general socialising)

Modelling the Rate of Spread of Fire: A Stochastic Differential Equation Approach

Dr Smaila Sanni

School of Molecular and Life Sciences (MLS)
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Curtin University


From a point source, landscape fires accelerate until they reach a quasi-equilibrium rate of spread. The rate at which a fire accelerates from its ignition affects the time first responders have to attack a fire in its initial stages when it is more easily suppressed. As such, knowledge of the rate of acceleration of a fire from ignition can be valuable from a fire management perspective. However, the majority of studies in wildland fire science have been dedicated to development of models for the quasi-equilibrium rate of spread attained by the fire after its acceleration phase. Comparatively little attention has been given to the development of models that specifically account for the growth phase of a fires development.

The rate of acceleration depends on many factors including variations in ambient and induced wind speed and direction, variation in moisture content of the fuel, fuel stratification and slope variation. Present models of fire growth from a point ignition are expressed as deterministic algebraic equations, thereby neglecting variability. The numerous variables involved make predictions of rate of spread from a point source very difficult.

In this paper we consider two approaches to model the acceleration phase of a fire. The first considers fitting a sigmoidal (logistic) function to experimental data using a nonlinear regression procedure. In the second approach we propose the use of stochastic differential equations to investigate the growth of a fire to quasi-equilibrium. In addition to providing a more realistic portrayal of the time series data relating to fire growth, this second approach allows for better discrimination of the mechanisms driving the growth phase of fire spread.

The models are assessed based on observations of experimental fire growth. Specifically the data relate to fires growing from a point ignition under the influence of a uniform wind. The results indicate that both approaches can provide an accurate representation of the observed data, but that the approach based on stochastic differential equations yields 95% prediction bounds that are narrower than those obtained from the nonlinear regression. The difference in prediction bounds indicates that the way stochasticity is incorporated into fire growth models has some strong implications for how the models make decisions. These decisions include the likelihood of a fire self-extinguishing before it reaches quasi-equilibrium, and the magnitude of the rates of spread it is likely to exhibit during the initial stages of growth.


Smaila Sanni is a Research Associate at Curtin University, working with SAGI West (Statistics for the Australian Grains Industry). He received a PhD degree from the University of New South Wales Canberra, in 2019. His research interests include inventory optimisation, stochastic modelling and statistical design of experiments.


This seminar will be presented online using Zoom (we recommend you download the Zoom App before the meeting start time). Once the seminar begins, participates will be asked to mute themselves. The meeting will be interactive, and viewers will be able to ask questions.

Instructions for connecting will be sent to your email upon registration. There is no close-off time for registrations though it is recommended to register in advance.

For further information please contact the Branch Secretary, Rick Tankard, Murdoch University.
He can be reached by email at or by phone at (08) 9360 2820.

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