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Numerical Simulation of the Howard Street Tunnel Fire, Baltimore, Maryland, July 2001.

pdf icon Numerical Simulation of the Howard Street Tunnel Fire, Baltimore, Maryland, July 2001. (4005 K)
McGrattan, K. B.; Hamins, A.

NISTIR 6902; NUREG/CR-6793; NRC Job Code J5414; 42 p. January 2003.


Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC

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tunnel fires; tunnels; numerical simulation


This report addresses the thermal environment of the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, following the derailment in July 2001 of a freight train and the burning of spilled tripropylene and the contents of surrounding rail cars. A numerical fire model developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been used to simulate the fire's growth and spread in the tunnel. The fire model has been validated for this application using temperature data collected during a series of fire tests conducted at a decommissioned highway tunnel in West Virginia. The cross-sectional area of the tunnel and the fire sizes used in the West Virginia tests are similar to the Howard Street Tunnel. For the Howard Street Tunnel fire, the peak calculated temperatures within the tunnel were approximately 1,000 C (1,800 F) within the flaming regions, and on average approximately 500 C (900 F) when averaged over a length of the tunnel equal to three to four rail car lengths. Because of the insulation provided by the thick brick walls of the tunnel, the calculated temperatures within a few car lengths of the fire were relatively uniform, consistent with what one would expect to find in an oven or a furnace. The peak wall surface temperature reached about 800 C (1,500 F) where the flames were directly impinging, and on average 400 C (750 F) over the length of three to four rail cars.