CORVALLIS, Ore. - As the West tallies the damages from the 2017 wildfire season, researchers at Oregon State University are trying to learn more about how embers form and about the blaze-starting potential they carry.

Preliminary findings indicate the diameter of the branches that are burning is the biggest single factor behind which ones will form embers the most quickly and how much energy they'll pack.

"Increased population in the wildland-urban interface means increased risk to life and property from wildland fires," said Tyler Hudson, a graduate student in the College of Engineering.

Research shows smaller-diameter branches are better at producing embers, also known as firebrands.

We have a multiscale approach that involves burning samples in a laboratory setting, larger burns - burning 10-foot-tall trees - and then working with the U.S. Forest Service to participate in prescribed burns."

In his lab, Blunck's research group controls multiple parameters which can influence generation rates: fire intensity, crosswind velocity, species of tree, diameter of the sample, fuel condition (natural vs. processed), and moisture content of the fuel.

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