Design and Development of a Lab-Scale Wildfire Ember Simulator




Sawant, Aniruddh

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Wildfires can be caused by natural phenomena like lightning or can be man-made. This fire can spread rapidly destroying forests and urban wildlands. One of the main causes for the spread of wildfires is embers or firebrands. The small and lightweight embers are capable of travelling long distances. When these embers land and accumulate on flammable surfaces they ignite them causing injury, death and financial losses. These losses can be reduced by residents living near forest fire prone areas if they are made aware of the destructive effects of embers and if safety precautions are followed. This project presents a laboratory scale prototype of a simulator capable of projecting simulated ember materials onto a model house. The goal of projecting these simulated embers is to determine areas in and around the house where there is a chance for embers to accumulate. This gives an idea to residents to keep these areas free from materials that can catch fire. The simulator discussed in this report uses a centrifugal blower of 440 CFM to shower ember materials on a house whose dimensions are scaled down to 6 ft x 3 ft x 6 ft (l x w x h). Thermocol, paper and woollen balls are tested as fake ember materials. It is found that the range and height covered by woollen balls are more than the other two. The average horizontal and vertical distances covered by the woollen balls when the blower was inclined at 45° is found to be 12 ft and 6 ft respectively. In the prototype, the ember materials are fed from a storage tank mounted to the blower output using a feeding mechanism. This ember simulator is mounted on a chassis, which is driven by four DC motors. Two of the motors have integrated encoder modules. The readings from these encoders were used to make the chassis move in a straight line. As a result, the prototype simulator is able to project ember materials on a model house while moving in a straight line.



Ember Simulator, Centrifugal Blower, Motor Control