Underwriters Laboratories (UL) researchers, supported by the National Institute of Justice, recently conducted a series of experiments on fire patterns and damage that fire investigators need to know about.
Understand the effects of ventilation on fire damage and patterns
Many variables, such as an open door or window, affect how fires progress and grow. UL conducted a series of experiments on fires to find out how ventilation influences the fire pattern. Findings show that separate and distinct fire patterns are generated by ventilation-controlled burning conditions in a structure.
Understanding the impact of ventilation on fire patterns can aid arson investigations.
Misreading fire patterns and incorrectly identifying them as arson can lead to unnecessary prosecution and jail time for a crime that didn’t actually occur.
More research and education is needed to ensure fewer fires are unnecessarily ruled as arson.
Characterize electrical system response to study fire progression
Also studied was how fire progression may be gauged from damage to electrical wiring. Using six different types of cords, researchers found that all eventually lost their insulation and tripped their power circuits. Physical damage was similar among the cords regardless of the type of circuit protections used.
Application of study findings
The National Fire Academy will incorporate findings from this study into its training courses for fire investigators. In addition, findings were shared with other professional development organizations and National Fire Protection Association fire investigation technical committees.
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: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times