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UL FSRI Conducting Field Experiments in Partnership with the Milwaukee Fire Department
Stephen Kerber
June 27, 2014

The final series of experiments that are part of the Study of Residential Attic Fire Mitigation Tactics and Exterior Fire Spread Hazards on Fire Fighter Safety will be conducted June 30th – July 9th. Experiments will be conducted in 3 acquired structures that are marked for demolition in partnership with the Milwaukee Fire Department. The one and a half or two and a half story structure will be utilized to examine attic fire mitigation in one of the most common legacy types of structure located in the United States and especially the Milwaukee area. The specific hazard to this type of structure is attic spaces located behind the knee walls and the peak area of the top floor. Several documented incidents where firefighters have been killed or severely injured during fires in finished attics with knee wall construction. Experiments will examine the fire dynamics as fire spreads in the knee walls and voids above the collar tie as all of these spaces are connected. Different firefighting mitigation tactics will be simulated to determine their effectiveness, most importantly of which is ventilation practices.

UL engineers will make measurements during the fires utilizing state of the art measurement devices. Temperature will be measured throughout the structure with thermocouple arrays placed in the attic space, in the void spaces and in the living space below. All ventilation openings will be instrumented with bi-directional probes to measure velocity flows into and out of the structure. Differential pressure sensors will be placed in the attic to analyze the smoke flows into the attic as compared to the pressure measurements. Video and thermal imaging cameras will be used throughout the attic and living space to document the experiments.

This project addresses the safety concerns the firefighter community has expressed. The results and conclusions of this project will be used to improve firefighting tactics and fireground safety. A comprehensive fire service outreach program will make sure that this science meets the street across the country. Results will be available by 12/31/2014. Funding for this project was made available by a Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighter Research Grant.

Due to security concerns and space limitations (these houses are all in active and occupied neighborhoods) we were not able to open up the experiments to the fire service or public. Visitors to the experiments are limited to the projects fire service technical panel and invitees of the Milwaukee Fire Department. Updates (photos and videos) throughout the experiments will be provided via UL FSRI’s social media channels.

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UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute is dedicated to increasing firefighter knowledge to reduce injuries and deaths in the fire service and in the communities they serve.