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Visiting the lab that’s trying to understand fire

26
May
2014

In the Rocky mountains, one center is trying to demystify the destructive force. The Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana, was built in 1960 for the purposes of understanding fire in all of its forms. The Atlantics short documentary about the lab, Fire, in Slow Motion, shows how its staff use specially designed apparatus such as wind tunnels and fire-whirl generators to simulate forest and wildfires, before analyzing the results. Researchers at the Fire Lab seem to have a satisfying job. Staff are called into a room to watch as hundreds of laser-cut cardboard pieces are set ablaze in a combustion chamber, and Sara McAllister, who works as a mechanical engineer testing the biomass that fuels forest fires, jokes her job is just to light things on fire all day. But the importance of the Fire Labs work is underscored by the damage that the wildfires — such as those that recently claimed lives and $60 million of property in California — can still inflict on society.

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