At the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana, Mark Finney also creates indoor blazes. Finney, a research forester, aims to better understand the factors that influence wildfires and how they spread. “Nature has a recipe for wildfires,” says Finney. It requires just three ingredients: fuel, heat, and oxygen (see What Causes a Blaze?).
To understand how these components interact to create large, out-of-control fires, Finney’s team uses a burn chamber. The fireproof room allows them to safely study fires by adjusting conditions like temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Finney explains that researchers would not be able to learn as much just by observing fires in nature. “The problem is that you can’t control or know exactly what’s influencing the fire [in the field],” says Finney.