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Fire Dynamics and Forensic Analysis of Liquid Fuel Fires

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2011
237 pages
This study aimed to expand the fundamental understanding of liquid-fuel fire dynamics, establish the utility of forensic tools, and validate empirically based correlations used to model spill fire scenarios.
The testing done in this research provided insight into the differences in fire dynamics between pool and spill fires (i.e. thick and thin fuel depths), led to the development of a methodology by which liquid-fuel fire events can be assessed, and identified forensic indicators that can be used in the analysis of liquid-fuel fire events. Key parameters that govern the evolution of fuel-spill fires from inception to extinguishment include properties of the fuel, properties of the substrate, and inherent interfacial properties developed between the liquid and substrate. Data available in the literature indicate that significant differences in mass burning rates exist between spill and pool fires, which significantly affect how fire size is calculated, resulting in a factor of five difference; however, since these findings are based on only two studies with limited fuels, additional work with a wide range of fuels and substrates was warranted. The testing of the current study allowed for the examination of the effects of various parameters (fuel quantity, substrate, and ignition delay) on both the spill and fire dynamics of scenarios that resulted from the release of various quantities of liquid. The tests also provided insight into the forensic fire patterns developed from both liquid and Class A fuel fires on a variety of surfaces. The tests involved a variety of fuels, substrates, and conditions, in order to capture a wide range of potential scenarios. From this set of spill fire data, an analytical methodology was developed to serve as a tool for the fire-protection and forensic communities. 129 figures, 63 tables, 52 references, and appended test matrixes, hood calorimeter configuration and calibration, video analysis methodology and calibration, and tabulated heat flux data

Date Published: February 1, 2011