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ABSTRACT

This research project is a continuation of a previous study (Hicks, et al., 2006), which analyzed fire patterns produced from wood cribs.  The current study continued this fire patterns research by burning ten commercially available polyurethane (PU) foam chairs and documenting the fire patterns.  The reproducibility of fire patterns was analyzed to compare one PU foam chair test to the next, as well as in association to those produced by burning wood cribs.  Two aspects of fire pattern production were examined.  The first aspect focuses on the reproducibility of a conical shaped fire pattern formed on standard gypsum wallboard surfaces.  Second, this study analyzed the effects of the upper layer and its role in the production of a conical shaped fire pattern.  This study showed that although the time to reach the fire pattern differed, a duplicate fire pattern was reproduced from a similar loss of mass.  The results of this study illustrates that similar fuel packages will reproduce a similar conical shaped fire pattern.  Additionally, lowering of the upper layer was found to affect the resulting conical shaped fire pattern. A subsequent aspect of this research is the implication that these patterns can be utilized by fire investigators in determining an area of origin.

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ABSTRACT

The fire investigation industry is considered to be lagging behind the rest of the forensic science fields in its assessment of the performance of methodological approaches and conclusions drawn by practitioners within the field.  Despite the best efforts of certifying bodies and industry members, there are still many unknowns within the profession.  As such, the researchers have collected a large survey of demographics to formulate a picture of our industry with regards to experience, age, employment, training, and opinions regarding methodology within the industry.  In addition to these demographics, the researchers collected data regarding area of origin determination both with and without measurable data (depth of char, calcination) to evaluate its effectiveness when applied without an on-site scene examination.  This permitted the comparison of the demographics and accuracy in determining the most important hypothesis in fire investigations, the area of origin. It is shown that 73.8% of the participants without measurable data and 77.7% with measurable data accurately determined the area of origin.  Thus, the total percentage of participants choosing the correct area increased 3.9% with the inclusion of measurable data as part of the given.  Additional selected outcomes from this research are presented within this paper.

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By Joe Sesniak, IAAI-CFI, IAAI-CI, CFEI, GIFireE

Loose electrical connections at screw terminals can create an increase in resistance, which promotes development of oxide layer(s) on the affected metals and localized heating. While the oxides are conductive (meaning the circuit will still “work”) its resistance is higher than that of the original metals involved (NFPA 921, 2014)[1]. The nature of the heating results in a locally high “watt density” and creates a potentially competent ignition source for proximal fuels (DeHaan, J., Icove, D., 2012)[2]. Recent literature, including works by Benfer and Gottuk (2013)[3], Korinek and Lopez (2013) [4] and Shea (2006)[5], provide detailed explanation of the chemical and physical processes of oxidation (copper I and copper II oxides) and corrosion associated with high resistance or “glowing” electrical connections. It is the visible effects of such localized high resistance heating on the receptacle terminals, and the persistence of these effects in a post-flashover fire environment, that are the subject of this paper. INTRODUCTION In this research, glowing connections were created on multiple electrical receptacles to produce heat effects on only one line side terminal connection of each receptacle. The purpose of this experiment was not to determine how heat effects manifest themselves on the terminals of electrical receptacles and associated conductors. The focus of this study was to determine whether or not the known effects persist beyond flashover at a visually perceptible level. This information is of importance to the fire investigator in the field. The reader should note that this work is considered preliminary. Potential variables were minimized, such as having conductors terminated on all screw connections and having multiple receptacles with varying loads on the same circuit. Further testing is required to evaluate the significance of such variables. Nonetheless the results of this testing are notable. The “heat damaged” test receptacles were installed in metal junction boxes and exposed to a room and contents fire that transitioned through flashover. The compartment was not instrumented. The point of origin and fuel load arrangement was selected to expose the receptacles to varying levels and duration of heat intensity. The post-flashover persistence of the effects of a glowing connection was subsequently visually evaluated. The intent was to provide fire investigators a resource for the preliminary field evaluation of electrical receptacles as a potential ignition source.

Loose electrical connections at screw terminals can create an increase in resistance, which promotes development of oxide layer(s) on the affected metals and localized heating. While the oxides are conductive (meaning the circuit will still “work”) its resistance is higher than that of the original metals involved (NFPA 921, 2014)[1]. The nature of the heating results in a locally high “watt density” and creates a potentially competent ignition source for proximal fuels(DeHaan, J., Icove, D., 2012)[2].  Recent literature, including works by Benfer and Gottuk (2013)[3], Korinek and Lopez (2013)[4] and Shea (2006)[5], provide detailed explanation of the chemical and physical processes of oxidation (copper I and copper II oxides) and corrosion associated with high resistance or “glowing” electrical connections. It is the visible effects of such localized high resistance heating on the receptacle terminals, and the persistence of these effects in a post-flashover fire environment, that are the subject of this paper.

INTRODUCTION

In this research, glowing connections were created on multiple electrical receptacles to produce heat effects on only one line side terminal connection of each receptacle. The purpose of this experiment was not to determine how heat effects manifest themselves on the terminals of electrical receptacles and associated conductors. The focus of this study was to determine whether or not the known effects persist beyond flashover at a visually perceptible level. This information is of importance to the fire investigator in the field. The reader should note that this work is considered preliminary. Potential variables were minimized, such as having conductors terminated on all screw connections and having multiple receptacles with varying loads on the same circuit. Further testing is required to evaluate the significance of such variables. Nonetheless the results of this testing are notable.The “heat damaged” test receptacles were installed in metal junction boxes and exposed to a room and contents fire that transitioned through flashover. The compartment was not instrumented. The point of origin and fuel load arrangement was selected to expose the receptacles to varying levels and duration of heat intensity. The post-flashover persistence of the effects of a glowing connection was subsequently visually evaluated. The intent was to provide fire investigators a resource for the preliminary field evaluation of electrical receptacles as a potential ignition source.

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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 

In the new issue of NFPA Journal®, President Jim Shannon said the Association will focus on the leading causes of home fires, including cooking. "We also need to continue to push hard for home fire sprinklers. That's still a large priority for NFPA, and we plan to work very aggressively in 2014 on our residential sprinkler initiative," he said.

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NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

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