Communications in Mathematical Physics

, Volume 267, Issue 1, pp 265–277 | Cite as

Self-Organized Forest-Fires Near the Critical Time

  • J. van den BergEmail author
  • R. Brouwer


We consider a forest-fire model which, somewhat informally, is described as follows: Each site (vertex) of the square lattice is either vacant or occupied by a tree. Vacant sites become occupied at rate 1. Further, each site is hit by lightning at rate λ. This lightning instantaneously destroys (makes vacant) the occupied cluster of the site.

This model is closely related to the Drossel-Schwabl forest-fire model, which has received much attention in the physics literature. The most interesting behaviour seems to occur when the lightning rate goes to zero. In the physics literature it is believed that then the system has so-called self-organized critical behaviour.

We let the system start with all sites vacant and study, for positive but small λ, the behaviour near the ‘critical time’ t c , defined by the relation 1 − exp(− t c ) = p c , the critical probability for site percolation.

Intuitively one might expect that if, for fixed t > t c , we let simultaneously λ tend to 0 and m to ∞, the probability that some tree at distance smaller than m from O is burnt before time t goes to 1. However, we show that under a percolation-like assumption (which we can not prove but believe to be true) this intuition is false. We compare with the case where the square lattice is replaced by the directed binary tree, and pose some natural open problems.


Critical Time Vacant Site Physics Literature Intuitive Reasoning Site Percolation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CWIAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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