FDNY Tests Take a New Look at Fires

The tests earlier this month took place in 20 wood-frame, brick-exterior townhouses built in the 1980s that were scheduled to be demolished.

Personnel from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) joined researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Underwriters Laboratories on Governors Island, N.Y. earlier this month for six days of fire tests to learn more about the science of today's fires, which burn faster than ever before because of the contents inside today's modern dwellings.

FDNY's news release said equipment including heat-flux gauges, pressure sensors, and thermal imaging cameras was used to measure data from three test fires per day. Sensors were set up at various heights in the rooms of 20 wood-frame, brick-exterior townhouses, and the furniture inside was carefully selected from a hotel surplus store so pieces would be identical from one townhome to the next. The structures were built in the 1980s and were scheduled to be demolished.

The fires were ignited remotely in basements, on the second floors, and in attics to test "how everything from door control to a home's layout will change a fire's response," according to the release. Representatives from other fire departments were on scene as observers.

"Every time you change one thing, you need a different test," said UL Engineer Steve Kerber. "Fire departments from around the world look to the FDNY and will change their tactics based on what the FDNY is doing," he added.

"We're hoping to gain a small advantage on how we fight fires, which will, with hope, protect the safety of our firefighters and the public," NYC Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.

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