|Nowadays, many fire cases will
need a specific fire science expertise: fire modeling.
For attorneys, obtaining adequate expertise in fire modeling is not a
trivial issue. The reason is that this is a highly specialized technical area,
yet one without clear means of qualifying the individuals. Especially, it is
important to note that professional qualifications such as: fire investigator,
fire protection engineer, fire marshal, etc. etc., do not imply expertise in
Part of the problem arises from the fact that it is quite easy to acquire the
trappings of a fire modeler, without actually having the background necessary
for a full understanding of the subject. For a very nominal fee one can obtain
NIST's HAZARD, CFAST, and FPETOOL. The programs are sufficiently user-friendly
that answers may be cranked out by an individual who is not at all aware of the
physics that he is actually representing. When this author was with NIST, we
agonized quite a bit over the release of the first version of HAZARD: how to
avoid putting tools into unqualified hands. The issue was, unfortunately, never
resolved. The attorney in a fire case, however, has to be able to determine
whether the individual is qualified or not.
To this end, we offer a list of questions which can be helpful in determining
the individual's qualifications:
Computer fire models are exceedingly difficult to adequately comprehend for
a person who has not studied either of these topics on a graduate level. At
least several courses in heat transfer (convection, conduction, radiation) and
at least an introductory course on combustion should be looked for.
- What courses have you taken in heat transfer and combustion?
There are several dozen useful models to choose from. It would be hard to
claim expertise in fire modeling if one had only the models from NIST in one's
toolkit. The person should have at least some models from abroad (Sweden,
Finland, UK, Australia, etc.)
- What fire models do you have available on your computer?
Today's fire models require that heat release rate data (from small-scale or
large-scale tests) be supplied as part of the input to the problem. A certain
amount of public-domain HRR data exists. This, however, is not likely to solve
very many needs in actual fire cases, since the data do not refer to the
specific products which burned in this particular fire. Thus, someone who uses
fire models in a meaningful way is going to need to obtain lab test results for
HRR on exemplar materials.
- Have you ever commissioned heat release rate fire tests for use as input
data to fire models?
Appropriate tests would include the Cone Calorimeter (small-scale tests), a
large-scale open-burning calorimeter, and a large-scale room calorimeter. They
would not include tests such as UL 94, Steiner Tunnel, or various Bunsen
burner type ignitability tests.
- What HRR tests have you commissioned?
Appropriate answers would include: (a) by conducting a full-scale sectional
mockup on the geometry in question; or (b) by using a fire model which can
represent flame spread.
- How do you represent flame spread in a fire model?
There are only a very limited choice of conditions where today's fire models
can represent flame spread; the details should be understood by the expert.
- If you use a fire model with flame spread features, what computation is
the model making?
Most models use either m2/kg or m2 as the basic smoke
characteristic of the material. The former is known as the specific
extinction area while the latter is known as the smoke production.
- Do you ever use fire models to predict the smoke in fires? Can you explain
the units that are used to represent smoke input data for smoke in fire
Because this is the mechanism for moving gas from the lower (cold) to the
upper (hot) layer.
- Why is the fire plume an important feature of room fire models?
Of most importance: ventilation (i.e., air supply). Of secondary importance:
chemical nature of the combustible being burned.
- What determines the amount of carbon monoxide being produced in a fire?
No, you will more than double it. The flow rate through an opening is not
linearly proportional to the height.
- If you double the height of window opening from a room on fire, will you
double the outflow from it?