Most wildland and prescribed fire spread occurs through ground fuels, and the rate of spread (RoS) in such environments is often summarized with empirical models that assume uniform environmental conditions and produce a unique RoS. On the other hand, representing the effects of local, small-scale variations of fuel and wind experienced in the field is challenging and, for landscape-scale models, impractical. Moreover, the level of uncertainty associated with characterizing RoS and flame dynamics in the presence of turbulent flow demonstrates the need for further understanding of fire dynamics at small scales in realistic settings. This work describes adapted computer vision techniques used to form fine-scale measurements of the spatially and temporally varying RoS in a natural setting. These algorithms are applied to infrared and visible images of a small-scale prescribed burn of a quasi-homogeneous pine needle bed under stationary wind conditions. A large number of distinct fire front displacements are then used statistically to analyze the fire spread. We find that the fine-scale forward RoS is characterized by an exponential distribution, suggesting a model for fire spread as a random process at this scale.
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