Smoke and Tenability: A Perspective on the Materials Approach to the Fire Problem

  • Jack Kracklauer


Combustion is a chemical phenomenon in which an oxidant is reacted with a fuel to produce energy and numerous combustion products. Thermodynamics and combustion chemistry are two highly developed and precise scientific disciplines. The combustion engineering discipline has evolved to the point that combustion efficiency in commercial diesel engines which transport more than 75% of the output of the American economy is greater than 99%. Unfortunately, there is another aspect to this phenomenon. Uncontrolled or accidental combustion is called fire. Available estimates from the National Fire Protection Association(1) indicate that in 1975 fire losses occurred at a rate of approximately 6% of the value of all new construction(2) in the United States. More importantly, the United States has the highest fire death rate of any industrialized nation.(3) A shocking comparison recently presented in Fire Journal (4) serves to illustrate the magnitude of this problem. Between 1961 and 1972, the Department of Defense records indicate that 46,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam war. “In the same time period 144,000 people—three times as many—died because of fires in this country, with hardly a whimper of protest being raised!” For 1975 these fire deaths were estimated(5) at 11,800 or 55.4 per million inhabitants. This problem is of sufficient magnitude that a blue ribbon panel at the federal level studied the problem and issued a report called America Burning in 1973.(6)


Fire Test National Fire Protection Association Smoke Density Fire Origin Smoke Index 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Kracklauer
    • 1
  1. 1.Market DevelopmentArapahoe ChemicalsBoulderUSA

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