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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Field trip to the ongoing smouldering peat fire in Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park, Spain

There is an ongoing peat fire in the National Park of Las Tablas de Daimiel, Spain.

Photo taken on November 25, 2009 in the area adjacent to the National Park, near Molimocho.

The peat in the Park is very dry at the moment (water content bellow 10 to 20% dry weight) after a prolonged drought and excessive irrigation of near fields that has lasted several years now. Under these dry conditions, peat smoulders readily (smouldering fires are known to spread at water content bellow 55% dry weight). Visually, only weak plumes of smoke can be appreciated in holes distributed over a surface area of 5 ha inside the Park and of 40 ha outside the Park. The real magnitude of the fire lies bellow the surface and no one knows the size of it.

This fire was detected first inside in Park in September 2009. But smoking signs of smouldering activity were detected earlier than that just outside the Park limits. The fire outside was caused by a flaming wildland fire extinguished in August but that left the peat smouldering. The cause of he fire inside the Park is currently unknown and a handful of hypothesis have been put forward (subsurface propagation from the outside fire, self-ignition phenomena, ignition from previous flaming fires, and endemic fire in the ecosystem).

Snapshot showing the two possible regimes of biomass burning: flaming of the grass and smouldering of the peat under it. For scale reference, the flame is about 10 mm tall. Figure from CATENA 2008

On the 25th of November 2009 I visited Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park with the Director of the Park Mr Carlos Ruiz, Dr Luis Moreno from IGME and the Fire Service Chief Officer in Castilla la Mancha.

The ongoing suppression, prevention and compartmentation tasks are innovative and effective. Note that peat fires are extremely difficult to tackle and the nightmare of fire-fighters. Indeed, little more can be done until the final solution of the global flooding (not partial) of the Park arrives in January 2010 (as agreed by national authorities).

Photo taken inside the National Park (Nov 25, 2009), showing heavy machinery stirring and compacting the soil down to a depth of 3 or 4 m.

I was specially impressed by the extent of the peat fire in the area adjacent to the Park and the novel large-scale prevention work compacting of the soil and local flooding from the surface. About 30 ha has been treated like this, stirring and compacting the soil down to a depth of 3 or 4 m with heavy equipment to prevent the spread of the fire. This prevention technique aims at cooling down possible hot spots and disrupting the dense network of natural pipes feeding oxygen to the deeper fire seats and carrying the smoke from the subsurface to the atmosphere. Nothing similar has been done before in other regions hit by smouldering fires (Borneo, British Isles, Alaska, Canada, Siberia, Iran ....)

Photo taken inside the National Park (November 25, 2009), showing the several hectares of peatlands that had been treated by compaction and stirring of the soil layers.

The day after, the 26th, I gave a seminar on Smouldering Fires at the ICAI School of Engineering, Madrid (the slides are accessible here).

Photo taken on November 25, 2009 in the area adjacent to the National Park, near Molimocho.

My comments on peat fires and visit to the Park was covered by Spanish media (for English, try funny translations here):

NOTE: Text and some photos are based on a prevoius post in my personal blog.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

MSc Thesis is featured on the cover of Fire Risk Managament

The cover article of the last issue of Fire Risk Management is based on the thesis of our MSc student Anna M Jonsdottir ( It is a survey of 29 buildings in the University of Edinburgh quantifying how much of old and modern buildings is outside the range of applicability of the Eurocode for structures and fire.

This is the first time anyone explicitly tells how narrow is the Eurocode's design range for modern architecture.

The article is available in open access in ERA.

A survey of the University of Edinburgh campus underlines the narrow design fire specifications of the Eurocodes for many buildings. The limits set out in the Eurocodes are height less than 4 m, floor plan under 500 m2, amount of glass and thermal inertia not too high or too low, and no vertical openings. In the King’s Buildings, built over a long period of time with many of them from the early 20th century, 66% of the total volume is inside the limitations of the Eurocode. But in the Informatics Forum (a 2008 brand new modern building with lots of open spaces and glass facades), only 8% of the total volume is inside the limitations. One could say that modern building trends are once more moving out of the limits of our current understanding in fire dynamics.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Distinguished Paper Award from the Combustion Institute

The 2008 Distinguished Paper Award on Fire Research at the 32nd International Symposium on Combustion was given to the paper "Carbon Emissions from Smouldering Peat in Shallow and Strong Fronts" by Guillermo Rein, Simon Cohen and Albert Simeoni.

This prestigious award is given by the Combustion Institute to the paper in the Fire Research colloquia which is "judged to be most distinguished in quality, achievement and significance".

Figure: Depth vs. time sketch of a downward smouldering
front showing the evolution of the front structure.

The paper reports on a series of laboratory experiments measuring carbon emissions from smouldering fires of boreal peat. It provides a novel framework to study smouldering dynamics by varying the controlling mechanisms and providing burning conditions that otherwise cannot be obtained in the laboratory. The paper is available in open access in ERA.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

HEC technology innovation award for FireGrid

Edinburgh students Sung-Han Koo & Sungwook Kang got the third prize HEC technology innovation award for their paper "Real-time fire prediction using sensors" on FireGrid.

Photo: Award reception of the 3rd Hyundai Engineering & Hankyung Technical awards. (From left to right) Co-chair of Hyundai Engineering, Sung-Wook Kang (MSc student UoE) and Bon-Ju Koo (father of Sung Han Koo, PhD student UoE).

The HEC is an award to post-graduate students who propose "technical renovation, new paradigms, new enterprise", conferred by Hyundai Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hankyung Economy (a media company); this was the third annual award.

Students Sung-Han Koo (BRE Trust/FireGrid PhD student) and Sungwook Kang (SAFE MSc student) submitted a technical paper related to the FireGrid project and were selected as one of the 14 finalists from about 70 initial entries. They then presented the work in person in Korea on 15 October and were later announced as one of the 7 final prize-winners, being awarded the joint "third prize" (3 million KRW, c. £1500).

The work was supervised Dr Stephen Welch.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

News on the Edinburgh Fire Digital Preservation Project

By Susan Deeny, PhD student.

Tao and Ania working on the Archive, 2009

In June of this year several post-grad students from the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh delivered 1400 box files containing the BRE Fire Research Archive from BRE headquarters in Watford to the University of Edinburgh; proof that if a road trip is involved you can get a post-grad to do almost anything. Little did they realise that this delivery, a mammoth task, was just the first challenge in the ambitious project to digitise the archive to ensure the preservation and future dissemination of its contents.

Undaunted the students set about planning the digitisation process of the archive. The primary challenges were finance, equipment and man-power. The students successfully convinced the Edinburgh Small Projects Grant (funded by alumni donations to the University) that this project met their ‘innovation in teaching, research and student provision’ criteria and secured start-up funds. With this and top up funds from the BRE Centre for Fire Engineering, the students secured almost £5000. This was enough to purchase a scanner and employ two fellow students over the summer break to get the project started. The scanner the group settled on was an Atiz BookDrive Mini a v-shaped cradle scanner that employs two digital cameras for image capture; capturing up to 700 pages per hour. The cradle reduces curvature in the scanned image improving the success of optical character recognition software.

Two undergraduate students, Ania Grupka and Tao Gao were recruited over the summer to set up the equipment and develop a robust work flow. Once the scanner was installed and working, the team trained and the methodology set up (which took up most of the summer time), in the space of a month over 185 documents were captured, edited and converted to pdf format, which amounts to 11 of the 1400 box files the archive contains. Based on progress this summer the group are conservatively estimating that at this pace and current team, it will take 8 years to complete the digitising process which is somewhat longer than most students spend at University (in the UK anyway!), thus we are currently looking into ways of boosting the rate of workflow. Increasing productivity is currently the most significant challenge facing the group however many more exist including database development, digital storage and decisions concerning dissemination. Despite these challenges the group have made a significant start towards their goal of preserving and opening up the archive, they are learning fast and they remain undaunted (naïve?).

The BRE Fire Research Archive is a treasure trove of research conducted in the pioneering days of fire safety science. The intention of this project is to create an asset available to the entire fire community, therefore if you feel you can contribute to this project we are eagerly awaiting to hear from you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Novel methodology to quantify wildland fuels' response to fire

The BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh has developed a methodology for quantifying the flammability of wildland fuels by adapting traditional fire calorimetry methods used to study the reaction to fire of industrial materials (ASTM standard). The methodology and its first application was published in 2007 and it is now being used in other places to improve knowledge of wildfire behaviour.

For this, a specific novel sample holder was designed and built in 2006 for the experiments. The sample holders is a basket made of stainless steel with holes on its walls (sides and bottom), to allow flow to pass through the bed of pine needles (see Figures 1 and 2 bellow). The sample is introduced into one of the two fire calorimeter (cone or FPA) for testing of the fire behaviour. It has been applied to Mediterranean pine needles, boreal moss and boreal peat samples so far.

Figure 1: Sample of live pine needles inside the novel sample holder with permeable walls.
Figure 2: Schema of possible flow of pyrolysis gases around and through the sample. Left) Using an impermeable wall holder in traditional calorimetry test. Right) Using the novel permeable wall sample holder in new tests for porous fuels.

The work, developed originally in 2006 as part of the FIRE PARADOX project (EU-FP7), has led to a PhD thesis and several papers. In chronological order, these are:

- A Calorimetric Study of Wildland Fuels, Proceedings of the 5th International Mediterranean Combustion Symposium, Monastir, Tunisia, 9-13. September 2007.

- A calorimetric study of wildland fuels, Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science, Volume 32, Issue 7, pp. 1381-1389, 2008.

- Transport Effects on Calorimetry of Porous Wildland Fuels, PhD Thesis by CF Schemel, 2008.

- Characterization of live and dead pine needles during combustion, Poster at 9th Symposium of the International Association of Fire Safety Science, Karlsruhe, Sept 2008.

- A study on forest fuel combustion dynamics using the Flaming Propagation Apparatus. European Combustion Meeting, Vienna, Austria, 14-17 April 2009.

- Determination of the main parameters influencing forest fuel combustion dynamics. 6th Mediterranean Combustion Symposium, Ajaccio, 7-11 June, 2009.

- Characterisation of Mediterranean vegetation by oxygen consumption calorimetry for forest fire hazards. 9th Mediterranean Conference on Calorimetry and Thermal Analysis, Marseille, 15-18 June 2009.

- Increased Fire Risk Associated with the Triassic-Jurassic Boundary Global Warming Event, The Geological Society of America, Annual Meeting, Portland, Oct 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trial by Fire - comment on Willingham's trial

by Hans-Werner Wabnitz

The Willingham's trial story recounts a horrific tragedy. The story of a Texas State assassination. The failure of the legal system in a criminal arson case, where the “players” were induced into false intellectual security by self-content, even arrogant, arson investigators.

The case highlights several issues:

The necessity to have smoke detectors in every home / office, and the risk of using any open heat source (heater, stove).

The necessity that experts - here arson investigators - consider state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, as opposed to mere reliance on experience and folklore. Beware of hubris!

The problem that courts are being taken hostage by technical expert-witnesses (here a criminal court, but valid also for civil cases)

The failing of supposedly “fool-proof” legal institutions (not only in the US!) intended to guarantee “fair trial” and avoid the miscarriage of justice, because of human complacency.

The importance of well trained, smart, dedicated and resourceful lawyers, questioning “the obvious” and the assumptions underlying principal arguments - as well as finding a competent expert.

In the case a father of three young children who burned to death in a house-fire received the death penalty because arson investigators testified that the fire “must have been set by a liquid fire accelerator”. Later on a serious expert, having studied the evidence, concluded that this accusation was bogus and none of the “convincing evidence” held up to scrutiny.

This case may become the first documented capital punishment case in Texas (with shock-waves throughout the other US states still clinging to capital punishment) where a factually and legally innocent person has been put to death. Hopefully it will give the opposition to capital punishment enough ammunition to win their case.

The case highlights the risk of, and pitfalls caused by intellectual arrogance, even hubris, of the technical expert (arson investigator), and the serious damage it can cause. Here they were practitioners, but the same hubris aflicts professionals from academia as well - see the sure-footedness of economists explaining the markets over the last years. Engineers, relying on the “laws of nature”, as like to justify their findings, must be aware that this is not as simple as it sounds, and that the deduction of cause and effect always involves human logic, which may be fallible let alone being misguided by religious beliefs, such as advocating “intelligent design”). Lawyers face the same challenge, as they may easily misjudge the applicability of a rule to given facts.

All are prone to lack of rigor, to intellectual lethargy and reliance on the maxim: “that’s how we always did it”, instead of questioning the obvious, checking assumptions.

But the case also demonstrates the power, benefits and striking result of rigorous scientific research, relying on measured experiments and careful analysis. This approach freed another inmate from death row in a very similar arson case. Unfortunately it came too late for the accused in question here.

Hans-Werner Wabnitz
Dr. Jur. (Freiburg) LL.M. (Tulane. NO La)
HW at

Friday, November 06, 2009

Willingham's trial and the state of the art of forensic fire science

Via an op-ed article in the New York Times, I learnt about the story of Cameron Willingham.

The State of Texas executed Mr Willingham in 2004 for the deaths of his three children by arson at their family home. An arson investigation by Dr Craig Beyler conducted in 2009 says that there was no scientific evidence what so ever that the house fire was intentionally set but that all revised evidence points that it was an accidental fire. It is terrifying that the State of Texas may have executed an innocent man.

This is an upsetting and horrible story, from many points of view, but the one related to this blog is fire science. I think many people will also find it a required case study for those working in fire, to learn from past mistakes, improve the field and avoid repeating it at all costs.

The story is best told in this recent article by David Grann in The New Yorker:
*Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?*. There is also a summary video and an audio commentary.

Dr Guillermo Rein

PD: The governor of Texas has replaced three members of that commission and is still saying in interviews that Willingham's execution was appropriate.

PPD: a community of about 30 volunteers has already been working on a public version of the events in wikipedia.

PPPD: The on-going case of Kevin Sweeney in the Netherlands is scarily similar to Willingham's. This case could be an accidental smouldering fire, which is my research expertise. I know first hand about the inability of many fire experts to see the importance of smouldering as the initiation event to a later flaming fire. That despite smouldering being the leading cause of fire deaths in residential areas in US and other western countries.

PPPPD: An important reading on the state of forensic science is the US National Academies report. A shorter piece that offers similar criticisms is in Popular mechanics.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Short Review of Workshops on Data Assimilation and Optimization, summer 2009

by Wolfram Jahn

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to leave temporally the world of Fire Safety Engineering and attend two conferences related to the non-fire aspects of my thesis work: data assimilation and optimization.

The 8th International Workshop on Adjoint Model Applications in Dynamic Meteorology

The first conference, organized by NASA and with NSF support (who also provided a grant to pay for my expenses), was held in the little town of Tannersville, in Pennsylvania, USA, and was the International Workshop on Adjoint Model Applications in Dynamic Meteorology(18–22 May 2009).

While most of the talks of this conference were way out of the scope of my thesis (and many of them incomprehensible to my 'engineering' mind), a few of them were closely related to my thesis work, and I could get some very interesting ideas from them. Additionally to the talks there was a tutorial session which occupied most of the first day of the conference. This was made for PhD students who use functional data assimilation systems for numerical experiments, rather than develop them on their own. The 5h-tutorial covered all the basics of data assimilation and adjoint modelling, and was very helpful in terms of getting my hands on the things I had read on DA in various papers, and it filled the gaps resulting from my still growing mathematical knowledge.

Group photo at the Adjoint Worshop

On the last day of the conference I presented my work in the poster session. Being the only person at the whole conference without a meteorological background, I got a few 'what on earth is he doing?' looks, but generally the idea of using data assimilation concepts in other areas generated a great deal of interest, and people were very curious about fire modelling in general.

Overall, this workshop was very interesting and useful, and gave me the opportunity to talk to the most prominent people in the field of DA (e.g. Ronald Errico, Ronald Genaro, Jeff Kepert). On my return to Edinburgh, I could apply some of the newly acquired knowledge and thereby greatly simplify my problem, which accelerated my progress significantly. One of the things I realized at this conference was the immense amount of resources historically invested in the topic: so many people have worked in Data Assimilation in the last 50 years, and so many more issues are yet to be resolved. Applying all these concepts to Fire Forecasting is certainly going to take a few more PhDs....

EUROGEN 2009, ECCOMAS Thematic Conference

The second conference was EUROGEN, on Optimization and Control, was held in Krakow, Poland in June. It was organized by
ECCOMAS, ECROFTAC, and CIMNE. The conference was mostly focused on industry problems of optimization, and the very broad range of topics presented in the conference made it difficult to find talks even loosely related to my research. However, after presenting our work on inverse modelling of fire dynamics, I did get very positive feedback and people showed a lot of interest (for some reason people get very excited when they see FDS snapshots).

Photo: Audience of one of the talks (I am on the right)

The eternal question of whether it is better to use gradient based optimization, or whether evolutionary algorithms are the way forward, was very present at this conference. Unfortunately no real discussion on the subject could be established, since each party is absolutely convinced that they are right, and therefore the discussion is not necessary (this actually seems to be accepted by both parties). Even after enquiring on both sides I did not get any useful arguments that would justify preferring either methodology.

It is absolutely necessary at this point to mention the excellent organization of the conference with a very nice venue, outstanding food and an extraordinary gala-dinner at the oldest restaurant in Krakow (established in 1364). Obviously the charm of this beautiful city added its part to the success.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Design Icons at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

by Prof. Jose Torero

As a Fire Safety Engineer, or someone who pretends to be one, I have many times complained that we work in a field that needs “Design Icons.” We have our icons in Fire Dynamics (H. Emmons, D. Drysdale, P. Thomas, J. Quintiere, etc.), we have our educational icons (J. Bryan, D. Lucht, D. Rasbash, etc.), we have our professional icons (B. Williamson, B. Nelson, etc.) and we have our design icon, Margaret Law. I unfortunately cannot think of any other design icon. I have enjoyed the immense pleasure of meeting or working with all of them but Prof. Rasbash, nevertheless I have always felt a professional void when it relates to design icons.

Today at the CTBUH 2009 Conference, I had a wonderful experience that made me feel humble and made me hope that one day our field will grow to be able to celebrate the achievements of three generations of design icons. I sat through presentations about structural design by Leslie Robertson, Charles de Benedittis, Gilberto doValle, Shankar Nair, Ron Klemencic and David Scott finishing with a presentation by Architect John Portman about architecture and structural design.

It was an afternoon that gave me something to think and forced me to reflect on the profession I chose. I have to admit that I felt envious of structural engineers but happy that we have a bright future ahead of us. It is in our hands to fill our profession with design icons, isn’t that a great privilege?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Congratulations for winning the 2009 Lord Ezra Award in combustion

Congratulations to the STAR team for receiving the 15th Lord Ezra Award for their innovative combustion technology to treat industrial soil pollution.

The award was given on 8th October 2009 during a lunch at the House of Lords, Westminster, by the UK Combustion Engineering Association for "outstanding achievement in the study of combustion engineering". The lunch was hosted by Lord Howie of Troon, Civil Engineer and MP.

The preceding David Gunn Memorial Lecture ‘Sugar the Energy Bill’ (Energy Efficiency at British Sugar) was presented by Paul Gardiner of British Sugar & Combined Heat & Power Association.

NOTE: this is the second Erza Award that goes to Edinburgh; Valentina Cvoro won the 2003 Derek Ezra Award.


History of the Lord Ezra Award.

The invitation to the Award Ceremony contained the following description of the award:

Lord Ezra was very keen that CEA should continue to support the industry through education and training. He wanted to add his own
personal support and commitment to that end by offering a prize to encourage new entrants to the industry and new innovation where possible. Thus, in 1995, the Lord Ezra Award was initiated and presented each year. By way of further encouragement and
equitability, the Award is open to a large field and entrants are asked to submit competitively based schemes in order to actually win the award. The meritorious entrant or entrants receive the Award every October in the House of Lords.

Combustion Engineering Association, on behalf of Lord Ezra, is proud to present the Award and invites entries from a person or group of persons in combustion engineering who have created or facilitated a benefit to that industry, especially through a new, innovative or novel nature.

Entry for the Award is by nomination and may only be made by Combustion Engineering Association Members. The award is not restricted to one student or person only but can be to a team, group or department for example, providing the members fulfil the entry criterion.

CEA is especially keen to receive applications from students, graduates or trainees new to the industry. The project entry should of course be concerned with combustion, combustion engineering and related fields.

Entries may be of a pure scientific nature or technological development in product, process or plant. Entries are also welcome in the area of fuels, energy or major cost saving and project management.

Accordingly, the following are the Terms of Reference for the Award: Qualifying projects should be innovations in either: planning, design, manufacture, installation, utilisation and maintenance of energy consuming industrial plant. The innovation should achieve a significant measurable improvement or benefit in any one or preferably more of the following categories :
Safety, Reliability, Durability, Longevity, Efficiency, Economy, Environment, Emissions, Technical, Product, Process, Plant, Fuels, Management."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Edinburgh's fire experiment made banner of a prestigious research images exhibition

Claire Belcher's photo of a fire experiment carried on at Edinburgh is featuring now on a large banner outside Newman House in Dublin, Ireland!

Image: Fuelling The Global Warming Debate

The image entitled "Fuelling The Global Warming Debate" is part of an research images exhibition put together by University College Dublin Research and curated by: The Irish Research Centre (at Trinity College), Gerry O'Leary (award winning photographer) and Willie White (Artistic director, Project Arts Centre). The image selected for the prestigious exhibition was taken during Claire's visit in 2009 and shows a burning monkey-puzzle tree branch inside the state-of-the-art Fire Propagation Apparatus (FPA) in the fire lab of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering. The experiments was being run by the PhD student Freddy Jervis.

The image is followed by the description "Global warming is expected to cause vegetation change. How these changes will alter wildfire activity is of increasing concern to researchers in the context of the threat to human life and ecosystems. This images shows the ignitability of different vegetation being tested using state-of-the-art fire propagation apparatus".

The UCD Research Images Exhibition 2009, part of Innovation Dublin festival, showcases a wide range of compelling images that have been created by researchers at UCD and their collaborators during the course of their research. The images on display have been submitted by researchers at all levels (PhD student to Professor), across a range of disciplines in UCD, from Arts and Human Sciences, to Engineering and Life Sciences. The Exhibition, which is open to the public, features the most innovative and imaginative research images that convey the depth and range of research taking place at UCD. The exhibition is being held over the next week at Newman House, 85-86 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland.

by Dr Claire Belcher (biogeochemist at University College Dublin working on mass extinction events, fire ecology, palaeowildfires, and ancient atmospheres).

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Dont bring death to your home"

Tayside Fire and Rescue is using rather shocking messages to make their point about safety go across the public.

This photos were taken in 2009 at the car park of the KB campus of the University of Edinburgh.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fire Engineering Students walk on fire

On the 2nd of October, five students from the BRE Centre of Fire Safety Engineering walked across 6 m of hot embers burning at over 650 °C to help raise money an event organized by the Edinburgh Zoo.

From left to right in the photo above, the brave and bold are: Nicolas Bal, Adam Cowlard, Adam Bittern, David Lange and Sam Grindrod

33 people in total walked across the fire raising over £7,000 for charities, with the fire engineers raising just over £500 themselves. The night involved a 1.5 hr training session which focused mainly on building confidence and focusing the mind (useful skills for research).

See video of Adam Cowlard walk (turn your head 90° to see it correctly):

by Sam Grindrod.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Call for papers: Special Fire Technology issue on Wildland Fires

Fire Technology, the journal of the National Fire Protection Association published by Springer, is preparing an issue on wildland fires.

The purpose is to help bridge the gap between the fire safety and forest fire communities. Multidisciplinary contributions and international perspectives are encouraged. Topics include technology, research and case studies in fire behaviour, laboratory and field experiments, fire modelling, fire fighting, detection and suppression, human behaviour, risk and related subjects.

Submissions accepted until 20th Jan 2010 here. Choose article type “wildland fire”. Fire Technology is a peer review (double blind) journal. At least two reviewers, maybe three, will evaluate the paper before a publication decision is taken. Immediately after acceptance, papers are available online in "Online First". Later on, when all papers on the special issue have been accepted/published, a hard copy of the issue is printed and distributed.

Contact Guest Editor: Guillermo Rein, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, University of Edinburgh,

Download call for papers in pdf here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Visit by Fire Officer Trevor Johnson and seminar on the Scottish Wildfire Forum

Trevor Johnson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service, is visiting the fire group and will give a seminar on 1st of October at 1pm in the Alexander Graham Bell Bldg (Seminar room 3rd floor).

Trevor Johnson is a senior manager serving with Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service with responsibility for risk management. He has been heavily involved with wildfire issues since 1996, having established wildfire groups and organised the first UK CFOA Wildfire Conference in 2001. He is currently the chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.

Seminar abstract:
*The Wildfire Issue: Towards a Wildfire Strategy for the UK*

(a copy of the presentation can be found here and a video here)

Throughout the UK a number of Fire Services and land managers have been working hard to progress issues relating to wildfire and in a number of areas significant progress has been made. Building on the direction of travel established by the Scottish Wildfire Forum, the chair Trevor Johnson, gives an overview of how the future strategic approach to wildfire could develop.

Summer intern from Texas worked on drilling oil experiments

Tommy Browder worked within the Fire Group at the University of Edinburgh for two and a half months this summer on the STAR project through the research exchange sponsored by Dr. Janet Ellzey at the University of Texas at Austin.

This is Tommy Browder account of his intern:

"Under the guidance of Dr. Christine Switzer and Dr Paolo Pironi, I conducted a number of bench-scale experiments exploring the robustness of the STAR technique, which utilizes a self-sustained forced smoldering combustion reaction to burn the contaminants, called NAPLs (non-aqueous phase liquids), contained in a wide range of contaminated soils. Specifically, I tested STAR’s ability to remediate drilling oil, and investigated possible means of waste heat utilization and exhaust after-burning. I identified and implemented some necessary adaptations to the experimental set-up which proved successful in remediating drilling oil and will hopefully spur further investigation. In addition, I assisted Dr. Switzer with some drum-scale experiments investigating the composition of the combustion exhaust products and the efficacy of compost in filtering various exhaust products.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Edinburgh, and leave amused by colleagues saying that this was a “sunny” summer for Scotland on my way back to Texas, where average temperatures often exceed 35 °C, and the sun nearly always shines during the summer.

Tommy Browder, Mech Eng undergraduate, University of Texas at Austin

Thursday, September 10, 2009

List of 2009 conferences in Fire and Combustion sciences

This list is has been moved to the permanent link:

It will be updated there for the incoming years. Anyone can send to the details of fire-related and combustion-related conferences not listed.

  • *Events in 2010*

  • International Symposium on Tunnel Safety and Security ISTSS 2010, 17–19th March2010, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

  • Sixth International Seminar on Fire and Explosion Hazards, Weetwood Hall, Leeds, UK, April 11th to 16th, 2010.

  • 10th International Conference on Combustion and Energy Utilization to be held in Turkey on the 4th – 8th May 2010.

  • International Conference Tunnel Safety and Ventilation - New Developments in Tunnel Safety, Graz, Austria, 3-5 May 2010.

  • 6th International Conference on Structures in Fire, SiF’10, June 2-4, 2010 at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Michigan.

  • International fire prevention symposium, a two-day international symposium organized by vfdb as part of the INTERSCHUTZ (international trade fair for civil security) at the Congress Center Leipzig from 8 to 9 June 2010, Leipzig, Germany.

  • 8th International Conference on Performance-Based Codes and Fire Safety Design Methods, 16-18 June 2010, Lund University, Sweden.

  • Interflam, 12th international Conference on Fire Science and Engineering, 5-7 July 2010, University of Nottingham, UK.

  • 33rd International Symposium on Combustion, Tsinghua University, August 1-6, 2010, Beijing, China.

  • *Past Events*

  • Fire and Materials 2009 Conference, 26-28 January, San Francisco.

  • APICI (Spain) 5th International Congress on Fire Safety Engineering, 18-20 February, Madrid.

  • International Conference on Applications of Structural Fire Engineering, 19-20 February 2009, Prague

  • SUPDET 2009: Suppression and Detection Research and Applications, February 24-27, 2009 at the International Plaza Resort and Spa in Orlando, FL.

  • FIRES3, Forecasting and modelling wildfire risk for UK moorlands and heaths, 31 March-1 April 2009, Manchester.

  • 4th European Combustion Meeting (ECM 2009), 14 - 17 April 2009, Vienna.

  • 2nd INTERNATIONAL TUNNEL SAFETY FORUM FOR ROAD AND RAIL, 20 - 22 April 2009, Lyon, France, by Tunnel Management International.

  • European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2009. 19-24 April 2009 in Vienna. Session NH8.1/BG2.9 on "Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires: models, theory, and reality".

  • FRT09: Fire Retardant Technologies 2009, 21 - 23 April 2009, Preston - UK. By the Speciality Chemicals and Applied Materials Chemistry Groups of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • 2009 Graduate Lecture, Institution of Fire Engineers - 24th April, Arup Campus, Solihull, UK.

  • Combustion Colloquia dedicated to Prof. D'Alessio, organized by the Italian Section of The Combustion Institute in Naples on April 26-28, 2009.

  • 2009 NIST Building and Fire Research Annual Fire Conference, April 28 - 30, 2009 at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD.

  • 13th International Symposium on Aerodynamics and Ventilation of Vehicle Tunnels (ISAVVT 13), New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA, 13 - 15th May 2009

  • Symposium: Dust Explosion Hazard Recognition and Control: New Strategies, Baltimore, Maryland, May 13-14, 2009.

  • 20th Annual Recent Advances in Flame Retardancy of Polymeric Materials, June 1-3, 2009, Stamford, CT.

  • 2009 Rasbash Lecture, Institution of Fire Engineers - June 4, Defence Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters, Andover, UK.

  • 6th Mediterranean Combustion Symposium. June 7th to 11th 2009, in Ajaccio, Corsica. Note that a special session dedicated to forest fires is now included in the programme.

  • Scottish Fire Engineering Network Conference, "Fire Safety Engineering: Enabling Innovation", June 16th 2009, Hosted by Strathclyde Fire & Rescue, SFR HQ Bothwell Road, Hamilton, UK.

  • Wildfire 2009, 16th & 17th June 2009, Lyndhurst. This is the UK’s only national conference on wildfires.

  • "Combustion Theory and Modelling" Institute of Physics Spring meeting. London, The Royal College of Pathologists, 24th of June. The 2009 "Huw Edwards Prize for Services to Combustion Physics" will be awarded to Prof Graham Dixon-Lewis during a dinner on the 23rd of June.

  • 86th Annual General Meeting and Conference of The Institution of Fire Engineers, “Fire and Life Safety Engineering – the Impact on Global Communities”, 1 and 2 July, in Glasgow.

  • 4th International Symposia on Human Behaviour in Fire, 13-25 July, Cambridge.

  • 22nd International Colloquium on the Dynamics of Explosions and Reactive Systems, July 27-31, Minsk, Belarus.

  • 12th European Meeting on Fire Retardant Polymers FRPM, 31 August–3 September 2009, Poznan, Poland.

  • 14th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection AUBE’09, 8–10 September 2009, Duisburg, Germany

  • The 4th European Summer School on Hydrogen Safety will be held 7-16 September 2009 in Corsica.

  • One day meeting on "Soots" by the British Section of the Combustion Institute, 16 Sept 2009 at Shell Thornton Research Centre, Chester, UK. See programmer here.

  • 2009 COCCFEA International Workshop on Combustion Simulation and Modelling, Imperial College, London on 17-18 September 2009

  • The IOP Combustion Physics Group is holding a one day meeting on Current Research in Combustion: A Forum for Research Students and Early Career Researchers on 22nd September 2009 at Loughborough University.

  • 9th International Water Mist Conference 2009, September 23 - 24 2009, London.

  • Eurofire 2009, Fire Protection Engineering Conference, A mature way forward to save life and property? 24 & 25 September 2009 in Bruges.

  • Advanced Research Workshop on Fire Protection and Life Safety in Buildings and Transportation Systems, 15-17 October 2009 in Santander, Spain.

  • SFPE The Annual Meeting and Professional Development Conference and Exposition in Scottsdale, Arizona, October 17-22, 2009.

  • Fire and Rescue in the 21st Century. How Science and Engineering Support the Fire Service, 3rd FireSeat, Wednesday 4th November 2009, Edinburgh.

  • National Telford Institute Technical Workshop: A Unified Framework for Performance-Based Structural Engineering under Exceptional Conditions, 16-17 November 2009, University of Edinburgh.
  • Workshop on Structural Engineering under Exceptional Conditions

    National Telford Institute Technical Workshop:

    A Unified Framework for Performance-Based Structural Engineering under Exceptional Conditions

    16-17 November 2009, University of Edinburgh

    The National Telford Institute is an alliance of Scottish universities, formed in 2007 to facilitate and promote research collaborations in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and to enhance the position of Scotland as a world class centre for engineering research.

    Visit by Dr Fleischmann and seminar on Design Fires

    Dr Charles Fleischmann, Associate Professor in Fire Engineering at University of Canterbury (New Zealand), is visiting the fire group and will give a seminar on Tues 15 Sept at 4pm in the Alexander Graham Bell Bldg. seminar room.

    Seminar Abstract:
    Design Fires: are they design variables or regulated parameters?

    As fire engineering continues to evolve and Performance Based Design
    becomes more and more popular we must ask ourselves who is responsible
    for the most important variable in the design process, i.e., the design
    fire. Since its inception, performance based design has relied on the
    fire engineer to chose and ultimately justify the design fire. Yet, if
    you give the same building to a number of fire engineers each one would
    come up with a unique design fire and ultimately differing levels of
    safety. One would hope that the designs would be similar; anecdotal
    evidence indicates that although many would be similar there would be
    more outliers than hoped. This presentation will expand on this
    discussion and present an alternative approach where the design fire and
    acceptance criteria is specified by the authority having jurisdiction
    and not left to the designer to develop and justify.

    Friday, September 04, 2009

    Congratulations to Dr Pironi for his PhD thesis defense

    Paolo Pironi successfully defended his PhD thesis on the 4th of Sept 2009.

    The external examiner was Prof. Bernie Kueper from Queen's University, Canada, and the internal was Dr Guillermo Rein. The PhD supervisors of Paolo are Prof Jason Gerhard and Prof. Jose Torero.

    The thesis title is "Smouldering Combustion of Organic Liquids in Porous Media for Remediating NAPL-contaminated Soils".

    Some of the paper based on his work are:
    * Self-Sustaining Treatment for Active Remediation: A Novel Technology for Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid
    , Environmental Science and Technology 43, pp. 5871-5877, 2009.
    * Small-Scale Forward Smouldering Experiments for Remediation of Coal Tar in Inert Media, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute 32 (2009) 1957-1964.

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Combustion technology for treatment of industrial soil pollution

    Researchers from the School of Engineering at The University of Edinburgh have developed an innovative technological solution for the remediation of a wide range of hazardous chemicals polluting the soil and water at industrial sites [*]. Self-sustaining Treatment for Active Remediation (STAR) aims to effectively eliminate contamination from industrial liquids, including coal tars, solvents, oils and petrochemicals.

    STAR targets the destruction of the oily liquids that are the source of groundwater pollution by igniting them and controlling their slow burning within the soil. This new application takes advantage of the properties of smouldering combustion (slow, low-temperature, flameless form of combustion).

    STAR is self-tracking, self-sustaining and self-terminating. Once the contaminant has been ignited, the smouldering process proceeds only through the contaminated fraction of the soil by focusing itself directly on the pollutant. STAR supports itself during the process using the energy created by the smouldering. It then terminates once the contaminant fuel source has been exhausted or its oxygen source has been removed.

    The initial proof of concept was funded by Scottish Enterprise and, led by the two main inventors of the technology, Prof Jason Gerhard and Prof Jose Torero. The STAR technology has been proven multiple times at reactors of different sizes, ranging from 0.5 to 6 m in length.

    According to Dr Jason Gerhard, “STAR promises to be technically effective as it is able to overcome barriers to remediation success that hinder many current approaches. It also promises to be particularly cost effective by avoiding ongoing energy provision and treatment of produced water or contaminants.”

    Due to the increased costs for dumping hazardous wastes into landfill, the European market is estimated at £500M -£2 billion a year, whilst the North American market is easily five times more lucrative and growing.

    For more information, these research paper can be read:

    * Self-sustaining Smoldering Combustion for NAPL Remediation: Laboratory Evaluation of Process Sensitivity to Key Parameters, Environmental Science & Technology 45 (7), pp. 2980-2986, 2011.

    * Self-Sustaining Treatment for Active Remediation: A Novel Technology for Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid
    , Environmental Science and Technology 43, pp. 5871-5877, 2009.

    * Small-Scale Forward Smouldering Experiments for Remediation of Coal Tar in Inert Media, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute 32, pp. 1957-1964, 2009.

    * Smouldering Combustion Phenomena in Science and Technology, International Review of Chemical Engineering 1 (1), pp. 3-18, 2009.

    [*] See page 10 of Infite magazine published by Edinburgh Research and Innovation.

    Smouldering combustion of liquids as a remediation concept is pending patent approval (UK Application 0525193.9, PCT Application PCT/GB2006/004591, and National Phase applications filed (e.g., USA 12/086323 and Europe 06820460.1; priority date 10th December 2005)).

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Visit by Dr Jomaas and seminar on Spherical Flames

    Dr Grunde Jomaas, Lecturer in Fire Safety at Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is visiting the fire group and will give a seminar on Wed 2 Sept at 1pm in the Alexander Graham Bell Bldg. seminar room (3rd floor).

    Dr Jomaas is a 2008 PhD graduate from Princeton University. In 2001, he got a BSc in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland (where he worked with Prof Jose Torero). After a year of research at Ecole Centrale Paris, he move to DTU Denmark in 2009. On top of his academic position, he is active in consultancy as a fire safety and combustion expert.

    Seminar Abstract:
    Experimental Observations of Propagation and Stability of Spherical Flames

    High-fidelity experiments were conducted to define the transition boundaries of both cellular and spiral flame front instabilities, and also to determine cellular flame acceleration constants for outwardly propagating spherical flames in a dual-chamber design that allows near-constant experimental pressures up to 60 atmospheres. The flamefront movement was monitored using schlieren cinematography and recorded with a high-speed digital camera. The instant of transition to cellularity was experimentally determined for various fuels and fuel mixtures and subsequently interpreted on the basis of hydrodynamic and diffusional-thermal instabilities. Furthermore, exciting observations of spiral waves and target patterns over propagating flame surfaces in rich hydrogen-air, rich hydrogen-oxygen, and lean butane-oxygen-helium mixtures are shown to be well described by the Sivashinsky criterion for instability.

    * See 2007 paper on Journal of Fluid Mechanics, "On transition to cellularity in expanding spherical flames".

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Blind vs Open fire modelling

    I always wanted to start a debate on this topic and now think that a better way is using the blog.

    Three years after The Dalmarnock Fire Tests, the 'a priori' vs. 'a posteriori' debate in is still not too popular in the fire modelling community. The debate seems to be mostly taking place in personal communications and during the peer reviewing of papers. Unfortunately, not much is happening publicly or at the reach of the fire community as a whole.

    Figure 1: Dalmarnock Fire Test One as seen from the outside, 18.5 min into the fire. (from [ Abecassis-Empis et al, Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 2008]).

    The problem is the following (summary). When making comparisons of modelling results to experimental measurements, there are two general approaches that can be followed: a priori (aka blind) and a posteriori (aka open). In a priori simulations, the modeller knows only a description of the initial scenario. The modeller has no access to the experimental measurements of the event and thus will be providing a true forecast of the quantities of interest. In a posteriori simulations, before the simulation is run the modeller knows the initial scenario and also how the fire developed (ie via the experimental measurements). Most fire model validations in fire engineering has been conducted a posteriori.

    Only comparison of a priori and a posteriori simulations of the same event allows to investigate the possible effect that maybe has been introduced by prior knowledge of how the event developed. The importance of this effect in fire safety engineering is currently an advanced research topic and under study by different research groups.

    The 2006 Dalmarnock Fire Tests conducted in a high-rise building were used to look into the problem. An international study of fire modelling was conducted prior to Dalmarnock Fire Test One. The philosophy behind the tests was to provide measurements in a realistic fire scenario with very high instrumentation density (more than 450 sensors were installed in a 3.50 by 4.75 2.45 m compartment). Each of the seven participating teams independently simulated the test scenario a priori using a common detailed description. Comparison of the modelling results shows a large scatter and considerable disparity among the predictions and between predictions and experimental measurements. These results tend to shock, please and anger the audience in equal parts. See Figure 2 below.

    Figure 2: Evolution of the global heat release rate within the compartment. Comparison of predictions and experimental measurements. (from [Rein et al, Fire Safety Journal 2009]).

    An exception to the relative silence of the fire community are the two magazine articles of Dr Alan Beard from Heriot-Watt University. These can be accessed here:

    First note that I disagree with blanket statements like "a predicted result from a model cannot be assumed to be accurate; ie to reflect the real world". Our work also shows that fire simulations provides fire features that may be good enough to be applied towards engineering problems if a robust and conservative methodology is defined. A prerequisite for this methodology is that it can use predictions with crude levels of accuracy and that it applies appropriate safety factors. But Dr Beard has an important point in that 'real world' fire engineering applications are most frequently applied to simulate events which real behaviour had not been (and will never be) measured. These simulations are a priori simulation, not a posteriori. However, most fire model validations in fire engineering has been conducted a posteriori. I certainly agree with Dr Beard on this one; we need more a priori comparisons of fire modelling and address full model validation. What is the effect of prior knowledge of the fire development? Would the validations provide the same conclusions if conducted a priori? The problem is not unique to fire engineering and any discipline dealing with complex simulations tools should be facing this question. I do not know how other disciplines cope with it.

    The differences between a priori and a posteriori modelling become patent when comparing the round-robin results with the work conducted after the Dalmarnock data was publicly disseminated. Subsequent studies (Jahn et al. 2007, Jahn et al. 2008 and Lazaro et al. 2008) show that it is possible to conduct a posteriori fire simulations that reproduce the general fire behaviour to a satisfactory level. This was achieved due to the availability experimental data of the real behaviour for reference, allowing for iterations until an adequate input file was found.

    I would like to finish with the same final words I use when presenting the results in conferences and seminars. We, the authors of the Dalmarnock round-robin, are professionals of, and supporters of, fire modelling. We want fire modelling to improve and be developed further. Our daily work goes in that direction.

    I am interested in hearing your comments.
    .Guillermo Rein.

    NOTE #1: All the relevant information, book and papers about The Dalmarnock Fire Tests are accessible in open access here.

    NOTE #2: There are two points about Dalmarnock that need to be emphasised since are often misunderstood. These are:
    • The aim of our a priori work was to forecast the test results as accurately as possible, and not to conduct an engineering design with adequate conservative assumptions or safety factors.
    • Experimental variability was one of our greatest concerns and that is why the scenario was designed for maximum test reproducibility. The Dalmarnock Fire Test One was benchmarked against a second test to establish the potential experimental variability. Results show that the scatter of the a priori simulations is much larger than the experimental error and the experimental variability together.

    NOTE#3: No matter how useful and interesting the results from blind simulations are, only three blind round-robins on fire modelling can be found in the historical records of the discipline. The other two are the 1999 CIB and the 2008 French PROMESIS project. All three round-robins overwhelming agree on the results, but the Dalmarnock one was the first to be publicly communicated and the one providing, by far, the largest instrumentation density.

    NOTE #4: I initiated a related discussion on this topic in April 2008 in the FDS forum. See here.

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Important accidental fires covered by the media - updated

    This is a list updated once in a while with the most interesting fire accidents and events in the media.

    PD: Special thanks to Cecilia and Adam for providing most of the information here.

    * Oct 2009 - Peat fire burning since September in the Spanish National Park Las Tablas de Daimiel in Castilla la Mancha is caused by prologued drought and clearly shows the pipe system feeding air to the subsurface fire. In Oct it was affecting 5 ha of land. The Guardian. El Pais (in Spanish), El Pais 2(in Spanish) (video).

    * August 2009 - Peat fires in Indonesia have now become perennial during dry seasons Jakarta Post. See here satellite imagines of Borneo on September 15, 2009. Special report on The Economist.

    * August 2009 - Los Angeles Fires out of control NYT. A wildfire raging in the mountains north of Los Angeles spread consuming thousands of acres of national forest land and threatening at least 10,000 homes. The fire was blamed in the deaths of two firefighters who were retreating from flames that overran a camp.

    * August 2009 - Greek fires roar with gale force winds. BBC News(video) timesonline. About fifteen thousand residents of Athens's northern suburbs were forced to leave their homes as large areas of forest were burnt. Some residents have refused to leave, choosing to fight the fires with whatever they can lay their hands on. Nearly 2,000 firefighters and soldiers are engaging the blaze on the ground, together with hundreds of volunteers.

    * August 2009 - Blame it on turbulent eddies. Timesonline (video). The attempt to break a world record by igniting 114,000 fireworks in less than a minute ended up in a 6.5s explosion witnessed by 200,000 people who lined the seafront in Bournemouth, UK. The managing director blame on the weather forecast.

    * August 2009 - Report of Australia's worst peacetime disaster has called for a radical overhaul of the bushfire warning system. BBC News

    * August 2009 - Fire chiefs support "fire safe" cigarettes in Scotland. BBC News. Some 44.8% of fire deaths in Scotland in 2007/08 were attributed to the smoking problem. The state of Vermont in the US introduced legislation in 2005 to ensure that all cigarettes were fire safe - and subsequently recorded no fire deaths attributed to cigarettes in 2007 and 2008.

    * August 2009 - 4,000 people evacuated in Canary islands. Timesonline. Some 250 firefighters, two helicopters and five planes are involved in tackling a forest fire in island of La Palma, the cause of which is unknown.

    * July 2009 - Fire claims four lives in Spain. BBC News(video) CNN. Four firefighters in Spain have been killed while trying to tackle a blaze at a nature reserve in the north-east of the country. Two firefighters also suffered injuries in the incident, the worst to occur since 11 firefighters died nearby in 2005. The fire in Horta de Sant Joan in Tarragona province had been under control but winds revived it, trapping the four firefighters. Some 8,000 hectares (nearly 20,000 acres) have already burned in Aragon, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,600 people. More than 800 Spanish troops are also fighting numerous forest fires across Spain.

    * July 2009 - Firefighter dies in Edinburgh pub blaze as floor collapses. BBC News(video)

    * July 2009 - Indonesia may experience more severe peat fires this year because of an extended dry season raising the prospect of choking smoke blowing across neighbouring states. Reuters.

    * July 2009 - Dozens of fire-fighters battled a massive blaze at a club in Edinburgh BBC News

    * July 2009 - 17,000 residents flee wildfires in Canada. BBC News(video). Wildfires near a western Canadian city have forced the evacuation of around 17,000 people. More than 150 firefighters are tackling the blazes in British Columbia, with support from 10 helicopters and eight water bomber planes.

    * July 2009 - Blaze in Soho, London. BBC News (video) Timesonline (video). A fire at a four-storey office building in Dean Street, Soho, in the historic area of London. 60 firefighters and 12 fire engines attended the fire which witnesses said started in an air conditioning duct in the building.

    * July 2009 - Hundreds flee as military drill sparks bushfire in Marseille. Timesonline(video).

    * July 2009 - London: Three children and three adults have died after a fire swept through a tower block. BBC News and BBC News

    * July 2009 - Accounts of "volcano of fire" around the town of Mojacar in Spain. BBC News(video).

    * July 2009 - The derailment of a freight train carrying liquid gas triggered a
    massive explosion killing at least 14 people. timesonline(video).

    * July 2009 - Aircraft burst into flames on landing at an airport in northern Iran, killing at least 17 passengers. BBC News(video).

    *June 2009 - Four escape firebombed restaurant: three bottles of accelerant were thrown through the window. BBC News

    *June 2009 - Mexican nursery fire kills many
    BBC News. At least 38 children have been killed in a fire that swept through a state-run day-care centre in north-western Mexico, city of Hermosillo. The fire appears to have started in a tyre depot.

    *June 2009 Man sentenced to death penalty for 2006 California wildfires BBC News. A court has sentenced a man to death for the first-degree murder of five firefighters by starting an October 2006 forest blaze.

    *June 2009 Bus fire kills 25 in Chinese city
    BBC News (video). At least 25 people have been killed and 78 wounded in a bus fire in central China, state media reports.

    *May 2009 Building fire in frost Antarctica
    BBC News. An isolated hut in Antarctica favoured by explorer Sir Edmund Hillary has burnt down after a fuel leak during a routine inspection at minus 35C.

    *May 2009 Firefighters tackle blaze in Edinburgh. BBC News. Dozens of firefighters have been tackling a major blaze in the Dalry area of Edinburgh. When the Lothian and Borders firefighters arrived, they found a two-storey warehouse well alight.

    *May 2009 Fire in the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. BBC News(video). Timesonline. "Journalists working in the press room, known as "the bunker", said they had noticed a steady build-up of smoke for 20 minutes before then, but that the smoke detectors had failed to react." There's a "human behaviour in fire" observation. They were aware of smoke for 20 minutes but because nobody raised the alarm, they didn't leave the building! Would the EU increase funding in fire safety now?

    *May 2009 Blaze breaks out at Fire Service College in Gloucestershire BBC News(video). "Twelve fire engines are stored in the building at the college in Moreton-in-Marsh along with 1,200 litres of diesel and 500 litres of hydraulic oil. Eleven of the fire engines have been destroyed at a cost of £116,000 each"

    *May 2009 Gas Pipe Fire in Russia, 100 m high flames. BBC News(video)
    BBC News
    (video). "A gas pipeline has exploded in Moscow sending flames 100 metres into the air and setting fire to a nearby building. The Russian authorities have shut off the gas supply to the area and are investigating the cause of the blast"

    *May 2009 Californians flee deadly wildfire
    BBC News(video). "Thousands of people in California have left their homes as a wildfire threatens the town of Santa Barbara. The rapidly-moving blaze has burned nearly 3,000 acres, leading California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency. "

    *May 2009 Gaming hall fire in Ukraine
    BBC News(video). "10 people have been killed after a fire swept through a gaming hall in eastern Ukraine"

    *April 2009 Commuter train on fire
    BBC News. "A commuter train had to be evacuated during the morning rush hour after smoke was spotted coming from underneath the train."

    *April 2009 Fire in the Coca-Cola building, London BBC News(video)
    The Telegraph. "A fire that broke out in building in Hammersmith, west London, has disrupted bus and Tube services. A fire brigade spokesman said the blaze began in an electrical sub-station on the 6th floor of the Coca Cola building in Queen Caroline Street".