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Study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Patterns and electrical system Damage in Single Family Homes Incorporating Modern Construction Practices

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $999,081)

As submitted by the proposer: Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) will lead a 2-year study examining how ventilation impacts fire patterns and electrical system damage in single family homes, incorporating modern construction practices. Fire investigators must understand fire dynamics to properly identify the origin and cause of a fire; and, fire dynamics are dependent upon ventilation. Limited scientific data exists from fullscale analysis of controlled fire scenarios. Research is needed on the impact of ventilation on fire damage by natural causes, as well as the use of ventilation as a firefighter practice. UL’s proposed research, conducted with the fire investigation community, will inform forensic science policy and practice. UL has been an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization since our inception in 1894. As one of the most widely recognized safety organizations, UL is well-positioned to provide an unbiased, independent perspective. Over the past 30 years, home construction design has changed, compounding how ventilation influences fire behavior. Fires in today’s environment, predominantly comprised of synthetic materials, commonly become ventilation-limited. How and where the fire receives oxygen greatly impacts the fire dynamics and subsequent fire patterns. One event, such as a door left open by a fleeing occupant, or a window that fails as a result of fire growth, could greatly impact home damage. Additionally, modern construction practices (open floor plans, two-story foyers, and great rooms) may lead to fire dynamics and fire patterns different than what fire investigators are accustomed. We will utilize full-scale house experiments to examine fire behavior from ventilation occurring without fire service involvement, as well as ventilation used during fire attack. We will also study: characterizations of electrical system response to fire; and computational fluid dynamics (utilizing NIST’s FDS) fire modeling analysis (UL will simulate these experiments and use the model to expand scenarios to further assess FDS’s ability to model fire patterns). Research will provide scientific-based data to supplement fire investigator knowledge. The project will draw from and enhance previous DHS AFG-sponsored research (EMW-2008-FP- 01774 - impact of horizontal ventilation through doors/windows) and (EMW-2010-FP-00661- the impact of vertical ventilation through the roof). Outcomes will provide a baseline for future training and modification to reference materials, such as NFPA 921; and, address concerns expressed by the investigation community. Investigators will gain scientific-based comparisons of the types of ventilation occurring during a everyday fires. A comprehensive fire investigator outreach program will sure that this science meets the street. This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 16, 2015