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Forensic Analysis of Ignitable Liquid Fuel Fires in Buildings

NCJ Number
Christopher L. Mealy; Andrew J. Wolfe; Daniel T. Gottuk
Date Published
February 2013
214 pages
This final report presents the results of a study that examined ignitable liquid fuel fire patterns in compartment fires.
This study had two primary objectives: 1) characterize the differences in fire dynamics and fire damage between ignitable liquid fuel fires in compartments versus in the open; and 2) evaluate the reliability of fire patterns and fire debris sampling analysis for identifying the presence of ignitable liquid fuel in compartment fires. This report presents the results of the forensic analysis of large-scale fires, addressing the following issues: pattern formation, evaluation of the utility of calcination measurements of gypsum wallboard, and the persistence of ignitable liquid residues. The results of the forensic analysis are presented in three sections in this report. This first section, Calcination Depth Study, deals with efforts to develop an objective tool and method of quantifying in situ calcination depths. Details are presented on the results of the small-scale exposure study, the full-scale exposure study, and the water exposure study. The second section of the report, Forensic Fire Pattern Analysis, assesses the utility of using calcination depth surveys as a way to understand the origin and development of a fire within an enclosure. Details in this section include results of the pattern evaluation, a summary of enclosure fire testing, characteristics of patterns, and a summary of fire pattern findings. The third section of the report, Ignitable Liquid Residue in Fire Debris, characterizes the impact of water spray on the accuracy of calcination depth measurements. Information in this section includes results of the small-scale ignitable liquid residue persistence study, the ignitable liquid residue sampling location study, open burning test results, and full-scale ignitable liquid residue sampling test results. Tables, figures, references, and appendix