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New York Firefighters’ Live Burn Experiment

Live Burn Experiments Help Shape The Future of Firefighting

Early in July New York firefighters were conducting live burn experiments to help the fire department better understand modern house fires.

Modern homes and their contents are significantly different to their traditional counterparts. The bulk of furnishings and items of furniture are now made from man-made, synthetic fibres and plastics rather than natural materials like wood and cotton. Living spaces are also generally more open and better insulated – again often using synthetic materials. All of these factors contribute to fires taking hold more easily and spreading through the home more quickly. The same could also be said of modern offices, shops and leisure venues.

30 years ago firefighters had 17 minutes on average to access a burning building and make their rescues – today this timeframe has been reduced dramatically to only 4 or 5 minutes. As a result many more firefighters are being injured in their duties.

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) experiment involved setting fire to 20 houses on the site of an abandoned coastguard barracks. Each building was filled with the same set of modern possessions including beds, sofas and chairs. Additionally, each house was fitted with sensors and cameras to measure various metrics such as temperature, toxic gases and the flow of heat.

In times where the fabric of our homes and the technologies used to build structures are evolving every day it is important to stay on top of what can be done to effectively put out fires. Findings from this live burn experiment will be compiled and shared with fire departments across the US and we could even see the influence of this experiment reaching our shores.

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