|Support and expert witness services for fire investigations and
|...is offered by Fire
Science and Technology Inc.
|Why do fire investigators, attorneys, and insurance companies need
fire safety science expert help?
|Despite the fact that it is a common, everyday phenomenon, fire is a very
complex chemical, physical, and thermal event. When it comes to an unwanted
fire, it is often important to answer questions such as: What exactly
happened? or, Why did the fire get so large? or, If this product
were made differently, would this have affected the outcome? These questions
are usually difficult to answer and opposing parties tend to disagree. The
personal experience of the fire investigator will be essential to define these
questions and to begin answering them. Yet, even decades of experience can only
give qualitative answers, whereas often quantitative answers are required.
The role of the fire scientist is to start with the data and hypotheses of
the fire investigator and then to harness scientific theories, models, and
specialized tests in order to progress from a qualitative to a quantitative
understanding of what actually happened.
|What is Fire Science and Technology Inc.?
|FSTI is a firm specializing in fire science, contract R&D, fire
litigation support, assistance in the development of products with improved fire
safety, and related subjects. It is headed by Dr. Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas.
|What are the unique strengths of FSTI?
|Viewed very simply, the main tasks of the fire scientist are two:
In both of these areas, all competent practitioners are able to apply the
known principles and methods to the case at hand. However, Dr. Babrauskas has
the distinction of actually having invented many of these methods.
- The commissioning, analyzing, and interpreting of fire tests
- The application of scientific/engineering formulas, equations, and
Dr. Babrauskas has nearly 25 years experience in developing fire test methods. He
is the inventor of the Cone
Calorimeter (ASTM E 1354; NFPA 264) and the Furniture Calorimeter
(specified in UL 1056, California T.B. 133, etc.) His Ph.D. dissertation was
on the subject of problems and uses of the fire resistance test, ASTM E 119.
He was the main author of the first comprehensive state-of-the-art assessment
of flammability test methods for electric wire and cable. He invented the
laser smoke photometer, now widely used in various fire test methods and has
written extensively on issues involving the measurement of smoke in fires.
- The commissioning, analyzing, and interpreting of fire tests.
The first-ever computer fire model released in the
U.S. was written by Dr. Babrauskas: COMPF (University of California, Berkeley,
1975). Since then, Dr. Babrauskas has contributed to the HAZARD I model of
NIST, organized the fire modeling portions of the recent European research
into furniture flammability (CBUF), developed a model for liquid pool burning,
etc. He is one of the few individuals who have been actively developing fire
modeling throughout the entire history of this specialty.
- The application of scientific/engineering formulas, equations, and
|Relevant expertise in some areas pertinent to fire investigations
Electrical fires are typically investigated in an empirical
manner and systematic, scientific examination of this phenomenon has rarely been
undertaken. Dr. Babrauskas has written several recent papers where he endeavors to place the
understanding of ignition from electrical means on a systematic basis. The topic
is also treated at great length in his Ignition Handbook. Much of the
research in this field has been conducted in Japan and published only in
Japanese; Dr. Babrauskas' papers and Handbook have made these results available
for the first time in English.
One of the essential aspects of a fire investigation is to
determine, if possible, the circumstances that led to ignition. Quite clearly,
this objective would best be served by reference to an ignition handbook. In
1996 Dr. Babrauskas observed this situation and noted that no such reference
tool was available. So over the next 7 years, with the encouragement of the
Society of Fire Protection Engineers, he then undertook to develop an
Handbook. This Handbook was published in 2003 and is a massive, unique tool
for this purpose.
- Ignition of fires and initiation of explosions
For a period of 6 years, Dr. Babrauskas headed up the toxicity research
program at NIST. There, he finalized the radiant toxicity test apparatus,
developed the first practical technique for quantifying carbon monoxide effects
in fire tests, and developed a systematic engineering basis for treating fire
- Analysis of fire toxicity effects
One of the most common issues to be determined in fire litigations is whether
some item in question could or could not have been burning rapidly or
excessively. Dr. Babrauskas is a leading authority on the subject of heat
release rate. He invented the two fire test methods most commonly used today for
determining "how fast things burn": the bench-scale Cone Calorimeter and the large-scale furniture
calorimeter. He has also contributed chapters on this topic to both the SFPE
Handbook (a comprehensive compilation of burning rates) and the NFPA
Handbook (a detailed discussion of furniture fires). He is also the author
of a textbook on this subject, Heat Release in Fires.
- Determining how fast items could have been burning in a fire
- Scientific analyses of fire behavior in connection with reconstruction of
Dr. Babrauskas has authored numerous papers which present various engineering
techniques for predicting fire behavior, including ignitability, flame spread,
smoke production, and corrosivity of combustion products. These techniques are
now in widespread use in the engineering community. Quantitative fire hazard
analyses combining toxicity and fire growth variables are now commonly done. Dr.
Babrauskas, however, was the first to provide a successful worked example of
such an analysis. Such a wealth of experience allows him to speak
authoritatively on the scientific principles of analyzing fire growth and
Often, fire reconstructions are concerned with proper use of fire test methods. Dr.
Babrauskas has been studying and developing fire test methods for some 25 years
and is able to give advice on a very wide variety of test methods. This can be
an important advantage, since many technical personnel have read descriptions of
the test standards, but do not have a knowledge of their history nor an
appreciation of their limitations. To have on your side an expert who intimately
understands the foundations of these test methods can be a real advantage.
A GENERAL NOTE ON PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: Dr. Babrauskas was the first person to ever
receive a Ph.D. degree in Fire Protection Engineering (University of California,
Berkeley, 1976). He headed up fire test method development programs at NIST for
a 16 year period. He is the author of over 250 papers on fire safety and is the
U.S. editor for FIRE SAFETY JOURNAL.