Published: Jan 1998
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In the 1980's, there were a number of unusual arson fires involving very fast fire growth and in some cases premature structural failure. These characteristics posed great risks for fire fighters. The evidence, such as melted steel, indicated that a high temperature accelerant was involved. To support their investigation into these fires, the Seattle Fire Department organized a large scale demonstration. An accelerant with characteristics similar to rocket propellant was used to initiate a fire in a 1900 m2 room in a single story building. The accelerant produced peak heat fluxes of 250–300 kW/m2 in approximately five seconds. Approximately two minutes after ignition of the accelerant, there was an apparent backdraft event and then flashover occurred. The building was heavily involved within four minutes.
From this demonstration, the Seattle Fire Department developed and distributed information to help other fire departments recognize certain characteristics of this type of arson and modify their procedures to protect their personnel.
arson, high temperature accelerant, backdraft, flashover, heat flux
Senior Engineer, Ktech Corporation, Albuquerque, NM
Principal Fire Consultant, Fire Quest, Walnut Creek, CA
President, Western Fire Center, Kelso, WA