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Understanding Fire and Smoke Flow Through Modeling and Visualization.

pdf icon Understanding Fire and Smoke Flow Through Modeling and Visualization. (1667 K)
Forney, G. P.; Madrzykowski, D.; McGrattan, K. B.; Sheppard, L.

IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Vol. 23, No. 4, 6-13, July/August 2003.

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fire models; smoke flow; visualization; zone models; computational fluid dynamics; simulation; case histories


Structural fires cost the US economy more than $100 billion annually in property damage, fire department maintenance, and insurance premiums. A price cant be put on the human toll: each year on average, 4,000 civilians die and 23,000 get injured in fires. Approximately 80 percent of fire deaths occur in homes. Trying to put out these fires costs 80 to 100 firefighters their lives and 80,000 to 90,000 more are injured every year. Smoke and toxic gas inhalation cause the majority of fire fatalities. Flashover, illustrated in Figure 1, occurs when flames erupt and rapidly fill a compartment. Despite fire codes and improved building designs, flashover and smoke spread are still major problems and require a more complete understanding of fire behavior. Fortunately, we can use fire modeling and visualization tools to overcome these problems, ultimately leading to the prevention of smoke and fire spread. Additional Information: Movies related to many of the articles figures are available at Fire on the Web ( contains information about fire including the Cherry Road and Iowa case studies, fire tests and data, software models, and publications. Each fire test Web page documents a test fire by displaying it in several forms including still photographs, movies, and heat-release-rate data. CD-ROM versions of the Cherry Road and Iowa case studies containing animations of fire simulations are available at no cost by sending a request to The Cherry Road report, NISTIR 6510, is available at and the Iowa report, NISTIR 6854 is available at In addition to the reports, these CDs contain animations illustrating the flow dynamics for some of the fire scenarios. FDS and Smokeview software (including source for FDS) and documentation is available at