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Forensics ferret out fire beetle secret
Date:5/23/2012

ist. But at a length of about 1 cm, the beetles are too small to carry a transmitter for long distances.

In 1925, a blaze destroyed a large oil storage facility in California

The resourceful scientists turned to a past event, which proved helpful. In August 1925, a large oil depot in Coalinga, California, went up in flames. "Reports from that era mentioned that the huge blaze attracted masses of charcoal beetles (Melanophila consputa)," explained Prof. Schmitz. Since the fire location was in the forest-less Central Valley of California, the beetles must have flown in from a great distance. Most likely, they came from large forests on the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada about 130 kilometers away, where there had been large forest fires in the two preceding years. "On such burnt areas, beetles multiply en masse, and after they emerged, they went to look for forest fires in the subsequent summers," said Prof. Schmitz. A forested area about 28 kilometers from the burning oil tanks in the San Benito Mountain Natural Area north of Coalinga seems rather unlikely as the source of the beetles since forest fires had not been reported in this area prior to 1925.

Based on a model from fire protection technology

Dr. Herbert Bousack, an engineer from the Peter Grnberg Institut at the Forschungszentrum Jlich performed the calculations for modeling the sensitivity of the sensor. "The Coalinga fire is a good match for this simulation," Dr. Bousack reported. First however, many parameters had to be researched painstakingly, such as the size of the fire, or the weather conditions. "More than 85 years after the event, such data was hard to obtain." The engineer based his mathematical simulation on various fire models such as are used in assessing of fire risks for storage tank facilities. "We adapted these technical guidelines for our purposes, which allowed us to fall back on proven experiences," said the engineer. <
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Contact: Prof. Dr. Helmut Schmitz
h.schmitz@uni-bonn.de
49-228-732-071
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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