NIST seeks help studying embers

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is beginning a study to help determine how wildfires spread through a Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). Many studies have found that structures are primarily ignited during a wildfire by burning embers that are lofted into the air and then land on or near buildings.

Without research, NIST says, building codes and standards do not provide adequate protection to structures within the WUI. More specifically, codes and standards do not adequately address the range of exposures during a WUI fire – especially firebrand or ember exposures.


NIST intends to develop a device which will help them learn more about burning embers. They are calling this instrument a “emberometer”. During the next two years, the researchers plan to fabricate and test an “emberometer” design developed for laboratory settings. Once initial testing is complete, a new design will be developed for an “emberometer” that can be used in controlled field experiments and actual WUI fire events (i.e., outside of the laboratory setting). Once fabrication for the “outdoor emberometer” is completed, NIST will identify field teams that can employ the instrument to collect exposure information on firebrands (embers) during field studies, and initial data collection to characterize firebrand (ember) exposure can begin.

How you can help

Fire photographers who have taken photographs of WUI fires with significant firebrand activity are encouraged to share their pictures and videos for analysis. If you are interested, contact Erica Kuligowski at or 301-975-2309 for guidelines.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “NIST seeks help studying embers”

  1. The post fire analysis of the Bastrop Fire near Austin Texas a few year back noted an ember fallout pattern by examining burn holes in outdoor trampolines in yards down wind from the fire. An interesting observation!


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