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New model simulates wildfires from single branches to local weather systems

July 27, 2021 - by Kim Delker

Every year, the headlines about wildfires seem to be getting worse. For instance, this year, the Bootleg fire in Oregon became so large that it created its own weather.

Among the researchers at The University of New Mexico who are studying wildfires from various perspectives is Daniel Banuti, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He is among a group who will present “Fire in Paradise: Mesoscale Simulation of Wildfires” August 9-13 at SIGGRAPH 2021.

“Our model is unique in that we can simulate a wildfire from the smallest branches up to the formation of clouds above the burning forest, on realistic terrain, and have it run interactively,” Banuti said.

Beyond predicting the path and size of a wildfire, such a model could be used for planning and training, allowing firefighters to engage with the simulation like with a video game.

The model also captures different ecosystems, different levels of forest cover, wildfire management practices, various windspeed, and the growth of pyrocumulus clouds or “fire clouds,” he said.

“It is amazing to see what a multidisciplinary team across three continents can achieve, and I hope this model will help us to understand and control wildfires better,” Banuti said.

Other authors of study are Torsten Hädrich and Dominik L. Michels, both of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Wojtek Palubicki of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań; and Sören Pirk of Google AI.

For more information about the research, reach out to Banuti at or visit