Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $570,790)
As submitted by the proposer:
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) will lead a study to examine the application of classical analytical methods used by fire investigators to determine the capabilities of those methods using realistic residential fuels. Over the years, fire researchers have provided many methods that can be used to predict fire characteristics. These fire characteristics include: median flame height, plume temperatures, estimations of the heat flux reaching a target based on the source heat release rate, hot gas layer temperature, and predicting flashover of a compartment. The methods developed range from simple, empirically based, algorithms to computational fluid dynamics models.
Over the past 30 years, changes in home construction materials, insulation and contents have resulted in the potential for faster fire growth rates. Faster fire growth rates combined with improved insulation of structures result in faster depletion of the oxygen contained in the fire structure. Therefore, fires in todays residential fire environment, which are predominantly comprised of synthetic contents, can more frequently generate ventilation-limited conditions. How and where the fire receives oxygen, especially in ventilation-limited conditions, greatly impacts the fire dynamics and subsequent fire environment.
This study will address the knowledge gap concerning the use of fire dynamics analysis techniques which were developed with and/or validated with gas burner or liquid fuel pool fires by examining the applicability of these tools when actual furniture (predominately synthetic) items are burned. The comparisons will be performed under fuel limited (free burn) and ventilation limited (compartment) fire conditions.
This research project will draw from and enhance previous DHS AFG and NIJ sponsored research. Outcomes will provide scientific-based data for training and reference materials, such as NFPA 921, addressing concerns expressed by the investigation community. Upon completion, investigators will have scientific-based comparisons for both the gas burner and the furniture fire results, and guidance on the application of the analytical methods. A comprehensive fire investigator outreach program will ensure that this science meets the street. UL proposes to conduct this project with the fire investigation community to inform forensic science policy and practice surrounding the changing dynamics of residential fires.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).
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