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Study of the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Patterns and Electrical System Damage in Single Family Homes Incorporating Modern Construction Practices

NCJ Number
Daniel Madrzykowski
Date Published
January 2019
11 pages
Findings and methodology are presented for a study whose objectives were to 1) understand the effects of ventilation on fire damage and patterns; 2) characterize electrical system response as a means of studying fire progression; 3) assess repeatability and reproducibility of test measurement of large-scale structure fires; and 4) develop materials property data inputs for accurate computer models.

Each of these areas was cited as needing research on the list compiled by the Fire and Arson Investigation Technology Working Group in the fall of 2014. All experiments described were conducted at full scale in purpose-built structures. Project findings are reported for flashover fire conditions on exposed energized cables and fixed ventilation on fire damage patterns in full-scale structures. The report, time histories of the data, and the videos from this study provide foundational documentation for the understanding of ventilation-controlled fires and the resulting fire patterns. The urgency of this research stems from a lack of knowledge by fire investigators of post-flashover and ventilation-controlled fire damage. This has resulted in unwarranted prosecutions and incarcerations for arson. This study supports the understanding of separate and distinct fire patterns that are generated by ventilation-controlled burning conditions in a structure. In past criminal cases, fire investigators have misunderstood ventilation-generated patterns and incorrectly identified them as evidence of arson. In addition, the experiments on exposing electrical cabling to a fire environment document that when the energized cables insulation burns away to the point that a short circuit or ground fault occurs, the physical damage was similar among the different cable types, regardless of the type of electrical circuit protection. The implications of these findings for standards and guides, as well as fire investigator training are discussed.