Studying the Impact of Ventilation on Fire Patterns

Full-Scale Experiments for National Institute of Justice Fire Pattern Project Completed

November 26, 2016

An image taken following a “closed” kitchen fire test in the ranch structure.

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute team conducted full-scale experiments over 40 days at UL’s Large Fire Lab to support the National Institute of Justice (Award No. 2015-DN-BX-K052) funded "Impact of Ventilation on Fire Patterns" project.

Experiments were conducted in a two-story, open floor plan colonial style structure and single-story ranch style structure. The first experiments were conducted with all of the exterior vents closed to provide a baseline of fire damage. The fires were started in the living room of the ranch and in the family room of the colonial. During the “closed” experiments, the fires consumed the oxygen that was contained within the structure. The temperatures and pressures inside the structures increased as the fire grew. Once the oxygen levels in the structures decreased, the temperatures decreased, the pressures decreased, and the fires nearly self-extinguished. Very little water was needed to suppress the fire.

The next set of experiments provided the front door as the single ventilation opening for the fires in the living room of the ranch and in the family room of the colonial. The fires burned for a longer duration of the test period. At the end of the test period the fires were extinguished in a manner where the fire damage on the walls or ceiling would not be disturbed. The damage was documented and will be compared against the damage from replicate experiments and from the “closed” set of experiments.

Six experiments examined the arc-fault potential of different size wires connected to parallel circuits with thermo-magnetic circuit breakers, ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection, or arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection were also completed.

Relevant Resources

RESOURCE #1: Impact of Ventilation on Fire Patterns Project Page

RESOURCE #2: Fire Investigation Data Portal

RESOURCE #3: Impact of Flashover Fire Conditions on Exposed Energized Electrical Cords and Cables Report

RESOURCE #4: Impact of Fixed Ventilation Fire Damage Patterns in Full-Scale Structures Report

RESOURCE #5: Introduction to Heat Transfer and Fire Measurement Online Course