Date of Award

6-2011

Degree Name

MS in Architecture

Department

Architecture

Advisor

Jens Pohl

Abstract

The purpose of this research was first to study the Wildland-Urban Interface and Wildland-Urban Intermix (WUI) fire problem, and then to design, develop and implement improved fire assessment and fire protection features for structures in the these interface fire-prone areas. The findings included that several areas of the world are prone to devastating fires that claim lives and destroy property, and their fire problems continue to exacerbate. None of these compare to the property loss experienced in Southern California due to its vast development in fire prone areas. It is because of the continuing huge property loss and frequency of major WUI fires that Southern California was selected as the concentration for research and the case studies used in this paper. However, the results of the research are applicable to other interface fire-prone areas in the world.

The author is motivated by a need to dramatically improve our ability to effectively deal with what is no longer a fire “threat,” but the reality that people have chosen to live in an area of the world in which wildland fires are part of natural forest dynamics. To reduce the economic and social impacts of these inevitable fires, we need to understand the causes of fire damage, and establish methods to minimize damage when fires occur. This thesis proposes several fire protection strategies for increased fire resiliency and safety of individuals.

Following a search of fire history and analysis, three related fire assessment matrixes were synthesized (see Chapter Five). The Fire Profile Index is the principal fire assessment matrix. It was developed empirically and applied to historical fire spreads for a sense of accuracy. The intended users of the Fire Profile Index are design professionals, public agencies charged with oversight for development in the WUI, insurance agencies, building and landscape contractors, homeowners, potential homeowners, residents and fire service professionals. From the Fire Profile Index two derivative special-use matrixes were established for use by diverse groups. The first of these matrixes, the Developers Guide, is intended for design professionals, public agencies, insurance agencies, and building and landscape contractors. The second matrix is the WUI Fire Assessment Guide, whose intended users are those concerned with development in high fire hazard areas, who should have a fundamental knowledge of fire behavior. This group includes fire agencies, developers, homeowners, potential homeowners and insurance companies.

This thesis contributes to increased residential structure fire resistiveness and occupant fire safety in the WUI, by proposing site-specific fire assessment and corresponding design features in both structures and landscapes. Chapter Seven covers the development of noncombustible fire shields to divert airflow and diminish flames and embers blown towards structures. Wind tunnel modeling research was conducted at the Aerospace Program’s wind tunnel at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.


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