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As wildfire fronts advance through landscapes or communities on the ground, they also attack from above, launching volleys of glowing embers into the air. Also known as firebrands, these specks of burning debris can glide for up to 40 kilometers (approximately 24 miles) before landing and can cause up to 90% of home and business fires during wildfires.
Guidance on fending off ember attacks is sparse, largely because so little is known about embers’ behavior. But a new instrument, dubbed an emberometer, could offer a glimpse at their true nature. In a paper published in Experiments in Fluids, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) showcase the tool’s ability to characterize the size and trajectory of embers, which may provide insights into their level of threat. With NIST’s new tool, fire engineers may be better equipped to protect buildings from embers and could produce data to support cost-effective guidance in building codes.