Building Simulation

, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 477–487 | Cite as

Fire scene investigation of an arson fire incident using computational fluid dynamics based fire simulation

  • Anthony Chun Yin Yuen
  • Guan Heng YeohEmail author
  • Bob Alexander
  • Morgan Cook
Research Article Indoor/Outdoor Airflow and Air Quality


Fire simulation utilizing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques was employed to reconstruct the aged-care facility fire incident that occurred in Quakers Hill, Sydney, in Nov 2011. Based on the sentence descriptions by the suspect and witnesses, the fire was intentionally lit on hospital beds sheets in an empty room and eventually spread to the entire building. The main objective of this simulation is to determine the fire origin and to gain insights into the fire development that resulted in three fatalities in the burn room. Preliminary numerical studies were initially performed in the model to investigate possible locations of the fire sources before the mock-up experiment was carried out in an actual size test room facility. The measured and predicted gas temperature from the thermocouple readings compared well, particularly with the peak temperature reaching approximately 900°C. Numerical simulation indicated that fire spread within the room was quickly established due to large amount of combustible materials being present and ample entrainment of air from the surroundings into the room through the window and doorway. This article illustrates the promising application of CFD for building fire modelling and simulation to provide evidences of criminal identification for fire investigation.


fire investigation fire growth flashover fire modelling fire scene reconstruction 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson DA, Tannehill JC, Pletcher RH (1984). Computational Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer. Philadelphia, USA: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  2. Atreya A (1983). Pyrolysis, ignition, and fire spread on horizontal surfaces of wood. Technical report GCR 83-449. Washington DC: National Bureau of Standards.Google Scholar
  3. Babrauskas V (1977). Combustion of mattresses exposed to flaming ignition sources, Part I, Full-scale tests and hazard analysis. NBSIR 77-1290. Washington DC: National Bureau of Standards.Google Scholar
  4. Babrauskas V (1980). Estimating room flashover potential. Fire Technology, 16: 94–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryner N, Madrzykowski D, Grosshandler W (2007). Reconstructing the Station Nightclub fire—Computer modelling of the fire growth and spread. In: Proceedings of 11th International Interflam Conference, London, UK, pp. 1181–1192.Google Scholar
  6. Chou YL (1975). Statistical Analysis, Section 17.9. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  7. Delémont O, Martin JC (2007). Application of Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling in the process of forensic fire investigation: Problems and solutions. Forensic Science International, 167: 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Drysdale D (1985). An Introduction to Fire Dynamics, Chapter 9—The pre-flashover compartment fire. Bath, UK: Bookcraft (Bath) Ltd.Google Scholar
  9. Grosshandler W (1993). RadCal: A narrow band model for radiation calculations in a combustion environment. NIST Technical Note TN 1402. Gaithersburg, MD, USA: National Institute of Standards and Technology.Google Scholar
  10. Galea ER, Wang Z, Veeraswamy A, Jia F, Lawrence PJ, Ewer J (2008). Coupled fire/evacuation analysis of the Station Nightclub fire. Fire Safety Science, 9: 465–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jukka H, Hostikka S, Jukka V (2004). FDS simulation of fire spread: Comparison of model results with experimental data. VTT Working Papers 4. Finland: VVT Information Service.Google Scholar
  12. Kwek G, Gardiner S, Howden S (2011). ‘A firefighter’s worst nightmare’ as multiple deaths confirmed after fire breaks out in nursing home. Sydney Morning Herald, Retrieved 18 November 2011.Google Scholar
  13. Lautenberger C, Fernandez-Pello C (2009). Generalized pyrolysis model for combustible solids. Fire Safety Journal, 44: 819–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mardrzykowski D, Bryner N, Grosshandler WK, Stroup D (2003). Fire spread through a room with polyurethane foam covered walls. Gaithersurg, MD, USA: National Institute of Standards and Technology.Google Scholar
  15. Mackay D, Barber T, Yeoh GH (2010). Experimental and computational studies of compartment fire behaviour training scenarios. Building and Environment, 45: 2620–2628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McCurdy RJ, Atwell T, Cole MD (2001). The use of vapour phase ultra-violet spectroscopy for the analysis of arson accelerants in fire scene debris. Forensic Science International, 123: 191–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McGrattan K, Baum H, Rehm R (1998). Large eddy simulation of smoke movement. Fire Safety Journal, 30: 161–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McGrattan K, Hostikka S, Floyd J, Baum H, Rehm R (2007a). Fire Dynamics Simulator (Version 5) technical reference guide. NIST SP 1018-5. Gaithersurg, MD, USA: National Institute of Standards and Technology.Google Scholar
  19. McGrattan K, Klein B, Hostikka S, Floyd J (2007b). Fire Dynamics Simulator (Version 5) user reference guide. NIST SP 1019-5. Gaithersurg, MD, USA: National Institute of Standards and Technology.Google Scholar
  20. Prasad K, Kramer R, Marsh N, Nyden M, Ohlemiller T, Zammarano M (2009). Numerical simulation of fire spread on polyurethane foam slabs. Gaithersurg, MD, USA: National Institute of Standards and Technology.Google Scholar
  21. Ritchie SJ, Steckler KD, Hamins A, Cleary TG, Yang JC, Kashiwagi T (1997). The effect of sample size on the heat release rate of charring materials. In: Proceedings of 5th International Symposium on Fire Safety Science, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 177–188.Google Scholar
  22. Shen TS, Huang YH, Chien SW (2006). Using fire dynamics simulation (FDS) to reconstruct an arson fire scene. Building and Enviornment, 43: 1036–1045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Skelly MJ, Roby RJ, Beyler CL (1991). An experimental investigation of glass breakage in compartment fires. Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, 3: 25–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Smagorinsky J (1963). General circulation experiment with the primitive equations: Part I. The basic experiment. Monthly Weather Review, 91: 99–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thomas PH (1981). Testing products and materials for their contribution to flashover in rooms. Fire and Materials, 5: 103–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Welch S, Jowsey A, Deeny S, Morgan R, Torero JL (2007). BRE large compartment fire tests—Characterising post-flashover fires for model validation. Fire Safety Journal, 42: 548–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Chun Yin Yuen
    • 1
  • Guan Heng Yeoh
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bob Alexander
    • 3
  • Morgan Cook
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Mechanical and Manufacturing EngineeringUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)MenaiAustralia
  3. 3.Fire Investigation Research UnitFire Rescue New South WalesGreenacreAustralia

Personalised recommendations