How does fire spread

David Blunck, an associate professor at Oregon State University, will discuss firebrands and the role the play in wildfires during the first Geology Lecture Series event of the year, hosted by Southwestern Oregon Community College.

Southwestern Oregon Community College’s popular Geology Lecture Series kicks off for the 2021-22 academic year with a lecture on “Wildfires and the Role of Firebrands in Their Spread,” by David Blunck from Oregon State University at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 12, via livestream at the college website:

The talk may be viewed online live. A Q & A session with the speaker will follow the lecture (advance questions may be sent to Ron Metzger at: All talks are archived for later viewing.

As we have seen increased rates of wildfire devastation in Oregon and throughout the west, it becomes increasingly important to understand how wildfire spreads. Blunck and his team are burning common vegetation – from Douglas Fir to sagebrush to measure how many firebrands are produced – the flying embers that are produced. Once wildfires start, one of the ways they spread is through firebrands that blow into unburned areas. Despite their importance in spreading fires, relatively little is known about how many firebrands different kinds of vegetation generate during wildfires. As Blunck says “If you want to understand how to control (wildfire) or contain it or prevent it, it’s helpful to know how it spreads.” Join us to learn more about this timely topic.

Blunck is an associate professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at Oregon State University, and is currently serving as the associate head for the undergraduate program. He has established the Combustion, Ignition, Radiation and Energy  Laboratory and co-founded the Propulsion Laboratory. His research focuses on combustion processes for wildfire and propulsion applications. As a result, his research ranges from studying smoldering combustion (which burns at mm/s) to detonations (which burn at 1 km/s). In 2015, he was named the AIAA Pacific Northwest Section Young Engineer of the Year and in 2016 he received an ONR Young Investigator Award for combustion research. Prior to joining OSU in 2013, he was the lead investigator in fundamental combustor research at Air Force Research Laboratory (2010 – 2013) and a graduate research assistant at Purdue University (2005-2010). During his time at AFRL, Blunck was the recipient of a Simpson Team Award (2013), and was nominated for a Presidential Early Career Award from the Propulsion Directorate (2011). At Purdue University, Blunck conducted studies of infrared radiation emissions from exhaust plumes and flames as a graduate student. He received a Department of Homeland Security Fellowship (2007 – 2010), was named the Outstanding Graduate Student for the School of Mechanical Engineering (2010), and received the Graduate Student Excellence Award from the university. He received a bachelor of science degree from Brigham Young University in 2005. Blunck has authored 35 peer-reviewed publications (published or under review), one section in a book, 60 conference papers and has provided 32 invited presentations.

All lectures in the series are free. The second talk this year is by Brendan Reilly (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) at 7 p.m., Tuesday, November 9, on “Revealing Rhythm of Ice Ages with Paleomagnetism” via Livestream. We hope to be back to a live audience in 2022.

Lecture Series Sponsors include: DB Western, Southwestern Foundation, The Mill Casino, Ocean Discovery Lecture Series, and the College. For additional information (or to submit questions prior to the talk) contact Ron Metzger at or 541-888-7216.


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