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Reducing Uncertainty of Quantifying the Burning Rate of Upholstered Furniture

NCJ Number
Marc L. Janssens
Date Published
May 2012
208 pages
This research was conducted in order to develop guidelines for predicting the burning rate of upholstered furniture for use in residential fire investigations.
The aim of this study was to develop a set of guidelines for use by crime scene investigators for predicting the burning rate of upholstered furniture and for optimizing the uncertainty of the predictions. The researchers conducted two series of full-scale furniture and room calorimeter tests. The aim of the first series of tests was to quantify ignition scenario and enclosure effects on the heat release rate (HRR) of upholstered furniture for three upholstered furniture burning rate models (Babrauskas, Babrauskas 2, and CBUF). The second series of tests involved the use of 22 sets of used upholstered furniture. In these tests, 27 full-scale room fire tests were conducted on at least 1 item in each set of furniture. The results of the second series of fire tests were used to assess the predictive capability of the three upholstered furniture burning rate models. The assessment found that the three models significantly underpredicted the peak HRR of upholstered furniture. The assessment also found that the accuracy of the Babrauskas model needs to be improved. In addition to testing the predictive capability of the three models, the study also investigated factors that affect the HRR of burning upholstered furniture. These factors include size of the ignition source (small flame vs. large flame), the type of ignition source, the location of the ignition source, and the type of padding material used in the furniture. Implications for policy and practice are discussed. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes