Fire Banner

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thoughts on the 2014 Wildland-Urban Fire in Valparaiso

Fire Technology letter to the editor from friends of the Edinburgh Fire Group.

The Great Valparaiso Fire and Fire Safety Management in Chile
Pedro Reszka and Andres Fuentes
Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria
© S AF, Chilean Air Force (Reska and Fuentes 2014)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A 'new' source of data for Fire Models' validation

An officially unpublished report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is now available for download from the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering collection at the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA).

Standard Room Fire Test Research at the National Bureau of Standards
Lee B.T. and Steel J.S.

Although the report was never approved for publication, it is one of the few research studies where experimental data from room-corner, Cone Calorimeter, and full-scale flame spread tests on "interior finish materials" is presented. Additionally, remarkable handwritten notes from the authors are shown throughout the report. This document has great value for validation exercises of fire models.

Thanks to Dr. Vyto Babrauskas ( for the valuable finding.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Partnering for the Future of Fire Safety Engineering Education

The International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering (IMFSE), an educational program offered jointly by the Universities of Edinburgh, Ghent, and Lund since 2010, has recently been selected as one of only 19 programs (from an original cohort of 50) to be included in the European Joint Master Degree (EJMD) Catalogue for the period 2015-2018.

This unique, two-year program attracts exceptional applicants from all over the world, and prepares its graduates for future leadership roles within the fire safety engineering community. The 99 graduates to date have taken up roles in the UK, Europe, South America, Australasia, and Africa.

The attractiveness of this program amongst top applicants has previously been assured by a number of generous scholarships funded by the European Commission. In recognising the excellence of the IMFSE during its initial four years of funding, the European Commission have pledged ongoing match funding in the amount of €441,000, for nine full scholarships for international students between 2015 and 2018.

To take advantage of this generous match funding offer and guarantee the ongoing success of this world-leading initiative, the IMFSE partners (Edinburgh, Ghent, and Lund) must secure guarantees of match funding totalling at least €147,000 annually, before 6th March 2015.

We have already secured €55,000 in annual match funding for 2015-2018, and we are now seeking additional industry partners to join the IMFSE Consortium. Membership in the IMFSE Consortium will be offered to industry partners contributing a minimum of €10,000 per year for three years.

Consortium members will be invited to host summer internships, offer MSc thesis topics, participate in the annual IMFSE Fire Safety Day, and will be granted unique recruitment access to our exceptional graduates.

Industry partners interested in taking advantage of the opportunity to participate in sustaining and educating the next generation of fire safety engineering leaders are encouraged to contact Profs Bart Merci (, Albert Simeoni (, or Luke Bisby ( before 28th February 2015 to learn more.

Additional information on the IMFSE program is available from:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tisova Fire Tests - Week 1

The setting for the Tisova fire tests could not be more picturesque, cool crisp winter days near a river in the western province of Carlsbad, on an old coal processing site. Over the past week you would have found a small band of academics making holes in floors, ceilings, walls, and beams in one of the buildings located on this site 25 minutes to the west of Karlovy Vary (where we are staying).  Whilst this is a lot of fun, it is all in the name of research.  

Karlovy Vary at night from our apartment

The aim:

To understand the structural effects of a travelling fire on concrete and composite structures, both during the fire and residually after the fire has cooled back to ambient. We are aiming to run the test on the 28th of January.  

Who’s involved:

University of Edinburgh, Technical Research Institute of Sweden (SP), Imperial College London, CSTB, Lulea Technical University, Czech Technical University in Ostrava, MajaCzech, and the Fire and Rescue service of the Karlovy Vary region. 

When did we start:

Set-up on site started on the 13th of January with two members from SP (David Lange and Fredrik Kahl) marking out holes for instrumentation and setting up the lighting for working into the evenings.  Jamie Maclean and I (David Rush) arrived on site on the 14th of January having set-off from Edinburgh on the 12th with a van full of equipment.

The test building

What have we done so far: 

The first week has been mainly drilling holes through the concrete and composite slabs for the 60 plate thermometers, drilling into the concrete and composite slab at various depths to place 112  thermocouples, and installing the 56 thermocouple trees in the fire compartment.  On top of this we have taken out the internal steel partitions that were in the fire compartment, made many holes in the plasterboard partitions on the floor above the fire compartment to run cables to the data loggers, broken a sledge hammer trying to break through a bathroom floor and created a lot of additional dust.

Thermocouple trees inside fire compartment (Photo credit Dave Lange)

Trials and tribulations:

Jamie Maclean and drill
So far there have been few trials to speak of, the only two of note are locating the troughs in the composite slab so that we can accurately measure temperatures, and a delay in the wood supply due to the time that its taking to dry it.

What’s next:

Over the next week the numbers on site will swell to around 10, meaning that we can start hooking up the 700 or so measurement channels, placing the wood (when it arrives), protecting  the necessary cabling in the fire compartment, and install the remaining thermocouples and deflection gauges


Globus is a big positive for us with tasty sandwiches, coffees, and pastries that keep us full of energy for the long days on site.  Finding drill bits long enough to drill 650mm into a concrete beam from above, which we wouldn’t have found had it not been for the very helpful and patient English speaking lady at the local hardware store, which we have visited everyday so far with random lists of equipment that we need.

(Photos copyright of David Rush)

Friday, January 02, 2015

International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering

The application forms for the new intake of students in the International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering (IMFSE), are available online for a few more weeks!

Submission deadline: 9 January 2015 for scholarship applicants and 30 April 2015 for self-sponsored applicants.

The programme runs between September 2015 and June 2017.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Indexing Day at the Edinburgh Fire Group

For over five years, the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh has been taking forward the Edinburgh Fire Digital Preservation Project. This project comprises the cataloguing, indexing and scanning of some 40.000 documents which originally belonged to the BRE Fire Research Archive.

Back in 2009, the Archive was relocated from its initial location at the BRE headquarters in Watford to the top floor of the structures lab in King’s Buildings, Edinburgh…a monumental effort! The overall objective of the project is to make the Archive’s content publicly available online. To date, documents uploaded to the online Edinburgh ResearchArchive (ERA) receive anywhere between 12.000 and 14.000 visits per year (not an negligible number for the Fire Science community). Many of these documents are not available anywhere else in the world, hence not available online.

The Archive contains a wide range of topics related to Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering (e.g. wildland fires, smoke behaviour, flame spread, fire dynamics, egress, structural behaviour, material science, combustion, and many, many more). Furthermore, the website hosting the Edinburgh Fire Group collections is the most visited website out of all of the Edinburgh Research Archive. To date, we've found some very interesting documents which include:
  • WWII Fire Safety Propaganda  found in our Archive is now exhibited at the NFPA museum and toured around the USA during Fire Prevention weeks (yes, the ones at the stair case in JM building are the copies of the originals).
This project is a venture undertaken by the Edinburgh Fire Group as a whole. The next step comprises a huge indexing effort in which all of us in the Group (academics, postdocs, PhDs, master students, undergrads, alumni, and friends of the Edinburgh Fire Group) will be spending a full day indexing documents from the Archive. This indexing task will be closely overseen by the Library Resources for the School of Engineering and the Edinburgh Research Archive, experts in indexing and cataloguing.

During Indexing Day, we'll have lunch, schedule coffee/tea breaks, and head down to the local pub in the evening. Up to date 28participants have signed up to join us on Tuesday 9th December. For those of you who haven't signed up, but are interested in participating, feel free to sign up.

Email for more information.     


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bang goes the Borders: Science Festival

Dr Carvel, ready to begin.
Saturday 20th September 2014 was the fourth "Bang goes the Borders" science festival, held at St Mary's School in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders. Each year the festival hosts researchers and scientists from several universities, schools and companies who present a variety of hands-on experiments, workshops and some demonstration experiments. Universities present included Heriot-Watt University (one of the event sponsors), University of Edinburgh, Newcastle University, and Glasgow University. Glasgow Science Centre were there too.

For the first time, a member of the fire research team from Edinburgh (me) was there to do some fiery demonstrations. We've been involved in a few 'public engagement' events in the past, but I've never tried to do fire experiments, outside, in such a way as to be entertaining, interesting, and safe. For this, my first attempt, the weather was very much on my side. There was little in the way of wind and the light rain earlier in the day had ensured that the grass around where I was going to be burning things was nicely damp.

The question I had to address in advance was what sort of fire experiments I could do to engage primary age kids (6-12 years old) and their parents? Having happened upon a quantity of 'Swedish Torches' (logs with cuts in them) in a local garden centre earlier in the summer, I decided to use these as the basis of my presentation: 

Question: Logs don't burn by themselves, 
so why do they burn by themselves when 
all that's been done to them is a few cuts?

The answer involves explaining the relationship between fire, air and heat. In other words, the classic 'fire triangle', although I don't think I used that phrase while explaining things.

With two chunky logs quite happily burning away beside me, I asked the audience if they thought a inch thick stick of wood would burn by itself. Most of the kids said no, and they were right. I tried setting fire to the stick with a blowtorch and it self-extinguished as soon as the burner was removed. What I discovered at that point is that primary age kids think blowtorches are awesome. If I'd just randomly set things on fire with the blowtorch for half an hour, they'd have been happy. Anyway, I had three progressively thinner sticks with me as well. Do they burn by themselves? Most of the audience thought the two thinner sticks would burn in isolation. They were wrong. So why does a chunky log burn, but a thin stick doesn't? With a bit of hinting, the kids guessed that the answer was something to do with heat. Result.

Now to wow them with the effects of airflow on a fire. Spinning a small pool of heptane on a turntable has little effect on the burning behaviour, but put a wire mesh around it and spin, and you get a fire tornado. Simple and effective. There were literally gasps of excitement from the younger members of the audience.

Now, having explained the influences variations in airflow and heat flow can have on a fire's burning behaviour, we were ready for the big fire test of the day. I had two identical wooden cribs (a regular arrangement of wooden sticks), about 20cm x 20cm square and about 15cm high. One was going to be burning outside, the other was placed inside a 40cm x 40cm x 40cm wooden box; the lower half of the front of the box was open. I ignited both with the blowtorch and got them to about the same stage of burning. We were going to have a race.

I ran the demos three times during the day and each time about half of the audience thought the 'outside crib' was going to grow faster, while the other half thought the 'inside crib' was going to win the race.

Each time we ran the race, the outside crib showed early promise, clearly being the bigger fire after about three minutes, due to a plentiful supply of air. Meanwhile the inside crib was growing at a slower rate, due to restricted airflow, but retaining its heat for future use. After about five minutes of burning, the inside crib grew rapidly in size and clearly overtook the outside crib in terms of fire size. Then the box went to flashover and decisively won the race.

(Following flashover, the back of the box fell off, venting and cooling the fire; this was intentional and made the fire much easier to extinguish after the experiment...)

These fires were watched by a good number of interested and well behaved kids; perhaps the fire safety engineers or fire scientists of the future! I hope they learned something. Certainly they were entertained.

The greatest feedback I had on the day was from a boy of about 8 years old who shouted across the field at me towards the end of the day:
"Hey mister! Great show this morning! I'll come back again next year..."
I think I might go again next year. I wonder what different tests I can do?