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Press Releases / 2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 2, 2012



Improving Firefighter Safety is the Goal of Collaborative Research with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL)

"Live Burn" Experiment Open to Media on Tuesday, July 3rd

The New York City Fire Department is partnering with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the Trust for Governors Island to conduct research experiments on Governors Island for six days in July that will involve setting controlled fires in rows of vacant residential buildings where high-tech sensors and heat-resistant cameras will capture critical data on fire behavior. These experiments, conducted under various fire scenarios, are expected to result in new scientific data on the dynamics of fire and enhanced operational firefighting tactics for the FDNY and other urban, suburban and rural fire departments in the U.S.

All media wishing to attend the “live burns” on Tuesday, July 3, must arrive at the Governors Island ferry located at 10 South Street, adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan, no later than 9:30 a.m. to board the ferry.  The “live burn” will take place at 11 a.m. following a briefing from FDNY, UL and NIST representatives.

The tests will specifically examine ventilation techniques used in structural firefighting, and how those techniques impact and influence the movement of fire, smoke and dangerous gases that are the product of combustion.

“As construction has changed in recent years, as well as the type of materials that are used in home furnishings, we have experienced fires that burn faster and reach high temperatures more quickly,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.  “And while we’ve adjusted how we operate, the purpose of these studies is both to validate what we’ve informally observed and to guide us in developing new operational procedures that will better protect firefighters as they encounter these new realities.”

The Governors Island fire research experiment marks the first time a series of live burns of this scale has been conducted in a real life setting, providing the FDNY with the unique opportunity to assess the impact of commonly used fire-fighting and ventilation techniques.

“As a global safety science company, UL has been conducting extensive fire research for over a decade,” said Gus Schaefer, Senior Vice President – Public Safety Officer for UL.  “We believe this research is important because it can inform firefighters about fire behavior in different circumstances.  And the more they know about how fires behave in reaction to different firefighting techniques, the better choices they can make.”

“These on-the-ground fire tests--in collaboration with FDNY and Underwriters Laboratories--provide a great opportunity for NIST to gather data at full-scale,” said Shyam Sunder, director of NIST’s Engineering Laboratory.  “The data will strengthen the scientific underpinnings of modern fire-fighting tactics and technologies, improve their effectiveness, enhance firefighter safety, and lead to better building codes and standards.”

The “live burn” tests are aimed at quantifying emerging theories about how fires are different today, largely due to new building construction and the composition of home furnishings and products that in the past were mainly composed of natural materials, such as wood and cotton, but now contain large quantities of petroleum-based product and synthetics that burn faster and hotter.  Where a fire in a room once took approximately 20 minutes to “flash over” – igniting all the contents – this can happen with today’s products in as little as four to five minutes. 

In addition, fire professionals and experts will closely analyze how the introduction of oxygen into these scenarios impacts fire behavior, and how this requires consideration of new procedures on ventilation strategies during firefighting operations. 

The live burn will take place in Brick Village, a group of non-historic buildings on the Island’s southern half. Brick Village was built in the 1980s and was used as housing during the Coast Guard era on the Island. These buildings are slated for demolition.

FDNY Office of Public Information: 718-999-2025

Underwriters Laboratory:
Carla Slawson: 847-664-1812

National Institute of Standards and Technology:
Mark Bello: 301-975-3776

Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon & Frank Dwyer, (FDNY) (718) 999-2056


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