Understanding the conditions leading to the transition of fire spread from a surface fuel to an elevated (crown) fuel is critical to effective fire risk assessment and management. Surface fires that successfully transition to crown fires can be very difficult to suppress, potentially leading to damages in the natural and built environments. This is relevant to chaparral shrub lands which are common throughout parts of the Southwest U.S. and represent a significant part of the wildland urban interface. The ability of the WildlandUrban Interface Fire Dynamic Simulator (WFDS) to model surface-to-crown fire transition was evaluated through comparison to laboratory experiments. The WFDS model is being developed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The experiments were conducted at the USFS Forest Fire Laboratory in Riverside, California. The experiments measured the ignition of chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) crown fuel held above a surface fire spreading through excelsior fuel. Cases with different crown fuel bulk densities, crown fuel base heights, and imposed wind speeds were considered. Cold-flow simulations yielded wind speed profiles that closely matched the experimental measurements. Next, fire simulations with only the surface fuel were conducted to verify the rate of spread while factors such as substrate properties were varied. Finally, simulations with both a surface fuel and a crown fuel were completed. Examination of specific surface fire characteristics (rate of spread, flame angle, etc.) and the corresponding experimental surface fire behavior provided a basis for comparison of the factors most responsible for transition from a surface fire to the raised fuel ignition. The rate of spread was determined by tracking the flame in the Smokeview animations using a tool developed for tracking an actual flame in a video. WFDS simulations produced results in both surface fire spread and raised fuel bed ignition which closely matched the trends reported in the laboratory experiments.