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from Firehouse.com by Karen Facey

I recently joined “the dark side" after I left the public sector as a fire marshal to become a fire investigator for Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance. While we collectively banter and joke about people leaving the public sector and starting their private sector careers, the reality is we all have the same needs and motivation. Ask any first responder, and they will likely tell you they love what they do because they get “to help people.” Ask any private fire investigator why they investigate fires and they will also answer “to help people.”

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Foundations of the Laws of Thermodynamics

The branch of science called thermodynamics deals with systems that are able to transfer thermal energy into at least one other form of energy (mechanical, electrical, etc.) or into work.  The laws of thermodynamics were developed over the years as some of the most fundamental rules which are followed when a thermodynamic system goes through some sort of energy change.

HISTORY OF THERMODYNAMICS

The history of thermodynamics begins with Otto von Guericke who, in 1650, built the world's first vacuum pump and demonstrated a vacuum using his Magdeburg hemispheres.

Guericke was driven to make a vacuum to disprove Aristotle's long-held supposition that 'nature abhors a vacuum'.  Shortly after Guericke, the English physicist and chemist Robert Boyle had learned of Guericke's designs and, in 1656, in coordination with English scientist Robert Hooke, built an air pump.  Using this pump, Boyle and Hooke noticed a correlation between pressure, temperature and volume.  In time, Boyle's Law was formulated, which states that pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS

The laws of thermodynamics tend to be fairly easy to state and understand ... so much so that it's easy to underestimate the impact they have.  Among other things, they put constraints on how energy can be used in the universe.  It would be very hard to over-emphasize how significant this concept is.  The consequences of the laws of thermodynamics touch on almost every aspect of scientific inquiry in some way.

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A publication of The Italian Association of Chemical Engineering Online at www.aidic.it/cet

The evolution of fires in confined space such as chemical and pharmaceutical warehouses is characterized by the complex interaction between the combustion process, the enclosure and occupants, which has to be managed when coping with fire emergency and, more in general, for fire safety. This paper proposes a quick, decision-making tool based on adversity scenarios and more specifically through the definition of four main elements: i) the potential fire spread categories, which describe the potential paths and extents of fire propagation; ii) the thermal load expressed as hot gas layer temperature; iii) the available safe egress time (ASET) for people to leave the enclosure, which is essential for organizing people evacuation; and iv) other specific hazards. The proposed tool can be usefully adopted to improve the level of information to interested stakeholders (building owner, fire service, etc.) concerning both the fire hazard and the building fire performance. 1. Introduction Fires constitute one of the most important hazards from chemical and pharmaceutical warehouses. They can give rise to serious damage to people as well as to the environment and they can cause extensive economical losses. For these reasons, in order to assist the management to identify the most suitable countermeasures (both organizational and technical), it is useful to have a tool that allows identifying in advance the potential adverse situations that could characterize the analysed system. In the present work, two indicators describe the potential fire-induced adverse situations, the first is a qualitative description of the potential fire, and the second is a quantitative evaluation of the thermal load on sensible targets, based on Hot Gas Layer Temperature (HGLT). The assessment process is based on the inspection of the workplace (Dusso et al., 2015): the workplace is divided into cells, i.e. single rooms or enclosures, or in more in general, subsections of the same workplace separated from those adjacent by physical elements as walls or floors and - in the open - barriers or separation distances. Then, important information regarding the characteristics of the stored materials, the storage conditions and the features of the enclosure such as floor area, ceiling height, openings should be collected.

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Successful Litigation Relies on Proper Analysis

by Roman Kickirillo, P.E., CFEI, CVFI, Donan Engineering Company, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee

The investigation into the cause and origin of motor vehicle fires should be considered a separate field of study than structure fires. Although the basic Fire Science remains the same, there are important differences in the interpretation and analysis of fire patterns and other evidence. An understanding of these differences before litigation begins can avoid lost time and expenses later in the process. There are very few absolute rules in vehicle fire investigations, but one always holds true: If your expert’s analysis is incorrect, the opposing side will be more than happy to let you know about it - at the worst possible time.

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From Out of the Abyss...

This week’s article from the past is titled Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted and was written by Benjamin Horton, CPCU, who was President of the National Adjuster Traing School in Louisville, Kentucky..  It is taken from the Decembe 1968 Vol. XVI No.5 issue.

Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted 

White Paper

Study by: Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid KemalExponent, Inc. USAMichael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas SkowronskiNorthern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USAEric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. HaddenSchool of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid Kemal Exponent, Inc. USA Michael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas Skowronski Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USA Eric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. Hadden School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

ABSTRACT

Two experimental fires, with contrasting intensities, were conducted in March 2016, in the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) of New Jersey, United States in order to provide a preliminary assessment of the reliability of the fire direction indicators used in wildland fire investigation.  The experiments were part of a larger project intended to measure firebrand production in a forested ecosystem.  As part of this project, fire behavior, as well as the environmental and fuel conditions were also measured.  Two burn parcels, covering an area of approximately 30 hectares each, were ignited from unimproved forest roads which delimited them.  The forest canopy was comprised primarily of pitch pine with intermittent oaks.  The understory contained a mixed shrub layer of huckleberry, blueberry, and scrub oaks. In order to explore a wide range of indicators, objects such as bottles, cans and small fence elements were planted in the burn area, and photographed before and after the fire.  To obtain an accurate measure of pre- and post-fire fuel properties, fuel load, fuel bulk density, and fuel moisture content were also measured. In addition, environmental data (wind velocity and direction, air temperature and humidity) were recorded.  The fire behavior can be reconstructed using measurements of fire rate of spread, fire front temperatures, fire front geometry, and heat fluxes.  Video and infrared cameras were used to document the general fire behavior in selected locations.  This paper represents the first step in the analysis of the fire indicators and focuses on the more intense of the two burns and on the appearance of the macro- and microscale fire pattern indicators.  A majority of the indicators were assessed, although the configuration of the burn parcels, the ignition technique, and precipitation immediately following the fires limited a full study.  The results show that some fire direction indicators are highly dependent on local fire conditions and fire behavior and may be in contradiction with the general spread of the fire.  Overall, this study demonstrates that fire pattern indicators are a useful tool but must be interpreted in the frame of a general analysis of the fire, combined with a good understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics.

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Back to Basics: The Fire Tetrahedron

How often have you heard the phrase “back to the basics”? It seems
as though every time you turn around you are being instructed to go
“back to the basics,” whether it’s with our children and their math
homework or it’s in the fire service with establishing a water supply,
advancing a hose line, or conducting ventilation. The “basics” are
those tasks that you need to complete first, and they must be completed
every time.

Coffee Break Training

How often have you heard the phrase “back to the basics”? It seems as though every time you turn around you are being instructed to go “back to the basics,” whether it’s with our children and their math homework or it’s in the fire service with establishing a water supply,advancing a hose line, or conducting ventilation. The “basics” are those tasks that you need to complete first, and they must be completed every time.

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White Paper-NHTSA

A Case Study of 214 Fatal Crashes Involving Fire.
Carl L. Ragland
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Hsi-Sheng Hsia
Research and Special Programs Administration
United States
Paper Number 9X-S4-O-08
Carl L. Ragland
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Hsi-Sheng HsiaResearch and Special Programs Administration
United States
Paper Number 9X-S4-O-08

ABSTRACT
A detailed case study of 214 fatal tire related 
crashes was conducted to determine whether the death was 
caused by the fire or blunt trauma. The cases were also 
examined to determine the specific crash conditions which 
caused the fire. This analysis was necessary because none 
of the existing fatal crash databases contained sufficient 
details to determine the impact configuration or the cause 
of death. Two hundred and ninety three (293) fatalities 
occurred in these crashes. Sixty-five (65) ofthese fatalities 
resulted from fire, with 30 of these fatalities from 16 rear 
impacts. The speed of impact was determined in eight of 
the 16 cases which caused these 30 burn fatalities. In these 
eight cases, the average rear impact speed was 54 mph with 
speeds ranging from 50 - 60 mph, at 7 1% overlap (7 1 % of 
the rear vehicle width engaged), and collinear at 6:00 
O’clock. By projecting these cases to the national sample, 
the number of rear impact fire related fatalities may be 
estimated between 94 and 191.

Wildfire Origin and Cause Investigation

Part 1

As the spring fire season approaches, fire investigators across the country will be responding to wildfires to conduct origin and cause investigations. In many jurisdictions, investigators are assigned to a type of investigation that is unfamiliar. During the response, the investigator may be thinking that it is no big deal, having already investigated hundreds of structure fires. How hard can a wildfire be? The answer is simple; you must be trained in wildfire investigation to understand the process.

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Part 2

In Part 2 of “Wildfire Origin and Cause Investigation,” we will continue to discuss the main points for the local fire investigator to focus on when conducting a wildfire investigation. Hopefully, last month’s article was an eyeopener for some local investigators to expand their education. The topics we will cover this month will be fire cause determination and fire cause categories/ignition sources. Investigators should become familiar with NFPA 921 and NWCG Wildfire Origin and Cause Determination Handbook.

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Zero-clearance fireplaces a main source of fires

Chief: Almost one-third of High Desert house fires caused by zero-clearance fireplaces

A Helendale house fire earlier this month that caused $50,000 in damages was the latest in a string of residential blazes to be traced to a zero-clearance fireplace, a County Fire official said.

Battalion Chief Warren Peterson blames zero-clearance fireplaces for roughly 30 percent of house fires responded to by San Bernardino County Fire.

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USDC Pennsylvania Permits Vaporizer Fire Case to Proceed to Trial

In MUTUAL BENEFIT INSURANCE COMPANY v. KAZ, INC.,Civil Action No. 1:12-CV-2108 (Feb. 20, 2014) at http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20FDCO%2020140221C81 was a civil action filed by plaintiff Mutual Benefit Insurance Company ("MBIC"), as subrogee of Betty and Allen Miller, alleging strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty against defendant Kaz, Inc. ("Kaz"). MBIC seeks reimbursement of monies paid pursuant to an insurance policy issued to the Millers, whose house was damaged in a fire. MBIC alleged that Kaz designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold a vaporizer that caused the fire. Presently before the court is Kaz's motion in limine to exclude the testimony of one of MBIC's submitted experts, Randolph Marshall of Marshall Forensic, LLC. For the following reasons, the court denied the motion.

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More Articles...

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