Fire dynamics

As per the 2011 National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) report entitled - Home Structure Fires, between 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 373,900 residential structure fires per year, with an annual average of 2,650 civilian fire deaths, 12,890 civilian fire injuries, and $7.1 billion in direct damage. In 2010, residential fires caused 2,640, or 85%, of civilian fire deaths.

The fire dynamics encountered during modern residential fires differ greatly from traditional models. The size and configuration of the typical single-family home, new construction techniques, high heat release-rate furnishings, and energy-efficient building technologies are increasing the risk to firefighters. The cumulative effect of these changes is faster fire propagation, excessive volumes of smoke, shorter escape times, decreased time to flashover, shorter times to structural collapse, and reduction in time available for effective fire ground operations.

The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program has cited extreme fire behavior and rapidly deteriorating fire conditions in numerous Line of Duty Death reports. One recent example is Death In the Line of Duty Report F2010-11, which documents the death of Firefighter Brian Carey in Homewood, Illinois. This report cites the failure to recognize and understand fire dynamics, and failure to react to deteriorating conditions as a contributing factor to the firefighter fatality. The report also recommends that firefighters and officers have a sound understanding of fire behavior, fire development indicators, and the potential for extreme fire dynamic behavior. This deficiency decreases situational awareness and negatively influences strategic decision-making during fireground operations.

With support from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), researchers from NYU-Poly are working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the Fire Department in New York (FDNY), the Chicago Fire Department (CFD), and the Bloomington Fire Department (BFD) to develop the ALIVE module that will provide detailed understanding of modern fire dynamics, challenges of modern residential fires, and tactical considerations to improve firefighter safety.

This module will be available by April 2014.