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

Christopher L. Mealy, Daniel T. Gottuk

 Earn a Degree in Crime Scene Investigation, Forensic Science, Computer Forensics or Forensic Psychology


Fires occurring within an enclosed space represent the majority of fire scenarios. Understanding the impact of this confinement on the burning dynamics of the fuels within is essential to accurately predicting fire development. Traditionally, heat release rate measurements are measured under open burning conditions. This data is often used to represent materials burning within an enclosure without fully understanding the impact the enclosure might have on the burning dynamics of the fuel. Depending on the geometry of the space and the ventilation conditions present, the enclosure may have a negative effect (i.e., reduce heat release), no effect, or have an enhancing effect on the burning rate of the fuels (i.e., increase heat release). The purpose of this research was to further develop the understanding of enclosure fire effects by conducting full-scale fire tests in both open and enclosed scenarios with both Class A and liquid fuels present. Identical fuel packages in the form of confined area liquid fuel fires (i.e., pan fires), unconfined liquid fuel fires (i.e., spill fires), and Class A fire scenarios were conducted in both the open and within an enclosure. Comparisons between the burning dynamics of the liquid and Class A fuels under these conditions were made. The results of this work provide insight into the varying effects that an enclosure can have on the burning dynamics of a fuel and identifies the impact of certain variables including fuel type, fuel location, and ventilation condition. It should be noted that a forensic research program was conducted in parallel with the testing described in this report and that a companion report was written describing the findings of this forensic work.

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