Understanding and Fighting Basement Fires

Research examines ways to increase firefighter safety while fighting basement fires
Ranch-style house with an above-ground basement

Many firefighters have been injured or have died while trying to extinguish a basement fire or a fire on a level below them. Fire experiments conducted as part of a collaborative effort between the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) seek to reduce the high risk to firefighters through the “Understanding and Fighting Basement Fires” research project.

UL FSRI research to-date has shown that basement fires present a high risk to firefighters. This risk stems from unexpected floor collapse and high heat. Research indicates the tools that firefighters have traditionally used to determine the structural integrity of the floor are of little value with lightweight construction. Prior experiments in small basements have indicated that the most effective method of fighting a basement fire may be on the exterior of the building.

ISFSI and UL FSRI conducted this research project to better understand why these events occur and what firefighters can do to avoid injury. This study went beyond past research by increasing the size of the basement, and incorporating three different access conditions to the basement. The outcome of the study has become an ISFSI Training Program for firefighters.

Fast Facts

  • This research was conducted in partnership with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI).
  • This project is supported with a Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant.