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Ignitable Liquid Fuel Fires in Buildings - A Study of Fire Dynamics

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2013
179 pages
Publication Series
This final NIJ (National Institute of Justice) report presents the results of a study examining the changes in burning dynamics of fuels burning in enclosures as opposed to out in the open.
Highlights of findings from this study on the effects of enclosure on the burning dynamics of fuels include the following: for both vinyl and carpet flooring systems, enclosure fires behaved differently than in open burning scenarios due primarily to the involvement of additional combustible material, such as adjacent flooring; when the fire resulted from a liquid fuel spill, the enclosure did not have an effect on the fire, but it did contribute to the fire growing larger and involving more material; and the impact of the enclosure on the confined area liquid fuel fire was dependent not only on fuel type, but on fuel location and ventilation as well. This study examined both confined and unconfined liquid fuel fires to determine the characteristics and burning dynamics of the fires. Three liquid fuels used in the study: gasoline, heptane, and denatured alcohol, were selected for their prevalence in real-world forensic fire scenarios, their historical presence in experimental fire research, and their differences in combustion chemistry. The two Class A materials used in the tests, furniture and flooring, were selected because of their relevance to residential fires and their use in previous research. The study's findings provide insight for forensic examiners on the varying effects that an enclosure can have on a fuel's burning dynamics. The findings also show that certain variables, such as fuel type, fuel location, and ventilation, can impact a fire's size, duration, and location. Figures, tables, references, and appendix

Date Published: January 1, 2013