Predicting fire spread and consequences: a complex interdisciplinary and multiscale problem — Dr. Anna Matala

Physics Lecture Theatre 3
Physics Building
Sandy Bay Campus
University of Tasmania
22 May 2019

The Discipline of Maths & Physics in the School of Natural Sciences will be hosting a seminar by the newly-appointed Fire Centre Manager Dr. Anna Matala. Anna will be discussing Fire Spread Modelling and it’s applications.


Fire is inarguably a huge hazard to the safety of people and animals, economy and property. Yet, learning how to control fire was one of the greatest advantages of the human kind. No matter if we want to prevent fire or minimize its consequences, or benefit from it, one must be able to predict how the fire will behave in each situation. Because of the destructive nature of fire, experimental testing is not often possible or cost-effective, and in these situations fire modelling becomes essential.  Depending on the target application, or the available resources, fire modelling can be anything from simple calculations by hand to complex and computationally expensive molecular level simulations. Fire behaviour is very sensitive to the ambient conditions, and even the repeatability of the experiments can be sometimes very low. This obviously causes challenges to the fire modelling. Besides of the ambient factors, fire spread is strongly a multiscale problem: the length-scale of ignition is just few millimetres while the simulation applications can be the size of a cruise ship, or a forest. The most common advanced fire simulation tools rely on fluid dynamics, but alongside techniques like probabilistic and numerical methods, risk analysis, artificial intelligence and finite-element method are often used.

This presentation addresses the most relevant methods and tools of fire modelling and presents some important applications.


Dr Anna Matala has background in technical physics and mathematics. She was working with varying topics of fire research at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) from 2007 until the beginning of 2019. She received her degree of Doctor of Science (Tech) from Aalto University, Finland, in 2013. The dissertation studied methods and applications of pyrolysis modelling of polymeric materials. Anna’s core expertise is pyrolysis modelling and fire simulations of complex materials, such as electrical cables. Major part of her work and research has been numerical, and she has been contributing to the verification and validation of the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) version 6. She has also experience in small and bench scale fire testing, especially Cone Calorimeter and Microscale Combustion Calorimeter. Originally from Finland, Anna moved to Tasmania in the beginning of 2019, and is currently working as Centre Manager of the Fire Centre Research Hub.