Fire Technology

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 865–891 | Cite as

Analysis of Changing Residential Fire Dynamics and Its Implications on Firefighter Operational Timeframes

  • Stephen KerberEmail author


There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades. These changes include larger homes, different home geometries, increased synthetic fuel loads, and changing construction materials. Several experiments were conducted to compare the impact of changing fuel loads in residential houses. These experiments show living room fires have flashover times of less than 5 min when they used to be on the order of 30 min. Other experiments demonstrate the failure time of wall linings, windows and interior doors have decreased over time which also impact fire growth and firefighter tactics. Each of these changes alone may not be significant but the all-encompassing effect of these components on residential fire behavior has changed the incidents that the fire service is responding to. This analysis examines this change in fire dynamics and the impact on firefighter response times and operational timeframes.


Fire dynamics Firefighting Tactics Residential fires 


  1. 1.
    Fahy RF, LeBlanc PR, Molis JL (2010) Firefighter Fatalities in the United States 2009, National Fire Protection AssociationGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Karter M (2010) Fire loss in the United States during 2009. National Fire Protection Association, QuincyGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ahrens M (2010) Home structure fires. National Fire Protection Association, QuincyGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Karter MJ (2007) Patterns of firefighter fireground injuries. National Fire Protection Association, QuincyGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fahy RF (2010) US fire service fatalities in structure fires, 1977–2009. National Fire Protection Research Foundation, QuincyGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Averages calculated assuming completion of Firefighter I and II as well as Fire Officer I and II. NFPA 1001 (2008) Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications and NFPA 1021 (2009) Standard for Fire Officer Professional QualificationsGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    2010 Characteristics of new housing (2010) US Department of CommerceGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    NFPA (2011) Third needs assessment of the US fire serviceGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    MacDonald IM (2011) Modern home plans and contemporary architectural home features. Retrieved June 29 2011 from
  10. 10.
    International residential code for one- and two-family dwellings (2009) International Code Council Inc., p 891Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Donovan M (2011) Custom home design floor plan considerations. Accessed 20 Jun 2011
  12. 12.
    Wilkinson M (2011) Open floor plans: why today’s designers are knocking down walls. Accessed 25 Feb 2011
  13. 13.
    Stephen F (1996) Plastic: the making of a synthetic century. HarperBusiness, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Plastics (2011) Accessed 20 Jun 2011
  15. 15.
    The furniture industry’s guide to flexible polyurethane foam. AX-224. Accessed 3 Mar 2011
  16. 16.
    Babrauskas V, Lawson RJ, Walton DW, Twilley HW (1982) Upholstered furniture heat release rates measured with a furniture calorimeter. NBSIR 82-2604, National Institute of Standards and TechnologyGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Allan E, Iano J (2008) Fundamentals of building construction: materials and methods, 5th edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Thomas Associates International (2007) Green building materials in the US SBI. New York/November 2, 2007Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Froeschle L (1999) Environmental assessment and specification of green building materials. The Construction Specifier, AlexandriaGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Frechette L (1999) Building smarter with alternative materials. Craftsman Book Company, CarlsbadGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Backstrom B (2008) Structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions, Project Number: 07CA42520. Underwriters LaboratoriesGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Wood I Joists and Firefighter Safety. American Wood Council Accessed 18 Jun 2011
  23. 23.
    Harman and Lawson (2007) A study of metal truss plate connectors when exposed to fire. NISTIR 7393, National Institute of Standards and TechnologyGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Madrzykowski D, Kent JL (2011) Examination of the thermal conditions of a wood floor assembly above a compartment fire, NIST TN1709, NIST, Gaithersburg, MDGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Fire Protection Research Foundation (1992) National engineered light weight construction fire research project technical reportGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sultan MA, Séguin YP, Leroux P (2008) Results of Fire Resistance Tests on Full-Scale Floor Assemblies. IRC-IR-764, National Research Council of Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Babrauskas V (2010) Glass breakage in fires. Fire Science and Technology, Inc. Accessed 22 Jan 2011
  28. 28.
    Kerber S (2009) Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction. Underwriters Laboratories Inc., NorthbrookGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    UL 9 (2009) Fire tests of window assemblies, 8th edn. Underwriters Laboratories Inc., NorthbrookGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    UL 10C. (2009) Positive pressure fire tests of door assemblies, 2nd edn. Underwriters Laboratories Inc., NorthbrookGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    NFPA 1221 (2010) Installation, maintenance, and use of emergency services communications systemsGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    NFPA 1710 (2010) Organization and deployment of fire suppression operations, emergency medical operations, and special operations to the public by career fire departmentsGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    NFPA 1720 (2010) Organization and deployment of fire suppression operations, emergency medical operations, and special operations to the public by volunteer fire departmentsGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Review of fire and rescue service response times (2009) Fire Research Series. Accessed 20 Jun 2011
  35. 35.
    Schaenman P (2007) Global concepts in residential fire safety Part 1—best practices from England, Scotland, Sweden and Norway, System Planning Corporation, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Stiegel J (2004) Protection target definitions—a national and international comparison. Frankfurt Fire Department, FrankfurtGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UL, LLCNorthbrookUSA

Personalised recommendations