How to build a firebreak to stop smouldering peat fire: Insights from a laboratory-scale study

Shaorun Lin, Yanhui Liu, Xinyan Huang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Smouldering wildfire is an important disturbance to peatlands worldwide; it contributes significantly to global carbon emissions and provides positive feedback to climate change. Herein, we explore the feasibility of firebreaks to control smouldering peat fires through laboratory-scale experiments. The dry-mass moisture content (MC) of peat soil was varied from 10% (air-dried) to 125%. We found that smouldering peat fire may be successfully extinguished above the mineral soil layer, even if the peat layer is not entirely removed. There are two criteria for an effective peat firebreak: (I) adding water to make the peat layer sufficiently wet (>115% MC in the present work); and (II) ensuring that the peat layer is thinner than the quenching thickness (< 5 cm). Criterion I may fail if the water table declines or the peat layer is dried by surface fires and hot weather; thus, satisfying Criterion II is more attainable. A sloping trench-shaped firebreak is recommended to guide water flow and help maintain high peat moisture content. This work provides a scientific foundation for fighting and mitigating smouldering wildfires and provides guidance about protective measures for field-scale peat fire experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-461
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021


  • Peat fire suppression
  • Peatland
  • Quenching
  • Soil moisture profile
  • Underground fire
  • Wildfire fighting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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