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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
The Central Valley Arson Investigators association continued the tradition of providing outstanding training at their annual Advanced Explosive Recognition class. The training was held once again at the Tulare International Agri-Center grounds. This year’s topic was the history of the American criminal bombings. Guest speaker Ed Nordskog, LA Sheriff’s Department, lead the class through the history of American bombings, from the earliest bombings in America right up to the most current-day events.
While in the classroom, we were given a taste of what was to come in the afternoon on the range, a few large booms came from the range-site, and this, of course, sparked the interest of the attendees filling the room with anticipation for the afternoon’s activities. I’m not really sure if that was part of the scheduled shots, or if Frank just couldn’t wait to try out his handy work.
Thanks to Geary Baxter and his crew, everyone was treated to a hot dog lunch with all the fixings, chips, chili, and drinks. Shade covered bleachers were provided to keep the sun off the students during the demonstrations. The range was arranged with several props from mail boxes (fairly close to the bleachers), to two transit buses and an ambulance several hundred feet down range. And, of course, there was a pressure cooker, which was placed down range, so that we could see the effects of a device similar to the one used in Boston.
The students were given the count down, so they could get their cameras ready to capture the moment, “Fire in the hole, three, two, one”! Our very own Scotty Baker, the voice of the AER range, would call out when each prop was ready to be set off. This year had more than its fair share of silence when the charge was supposed to go off. After making our first run down range to get a closer look (and see the handy work of the Sheriff’s bomb team), it was clear what had happened, the fragmentation from the first explosions took out the six-pair lead-in wire. By the way, the trip down range was in a people mover provided by CVAI; these guys think of everything.
The class was attended by nearly one hundred and fifty students from police, fire, and evidence people from all over the state. There was even a fellow from New York City in the class (and I thought it was a long drive from San Diego). There was great representation from the CCAI elected officials; President Scotty Baker, First Vice-president Tom Peirce, Second Vice-president Eric Emmanuele, Director Dale Feb, and myself Director Troy Morrison.
Thanks to all the folks at Central Valley Arson Investigators for all their hard work!! Another great training class. We are all looking forward for what is in store for next year when the theme for the AER class will be “First Responders”.
Troy Morrison, PIO CCAI
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