History of Fire Testing.
History of Fire Testing.
Lawson, J. R.
NIST Technical Note 1628; NIST TN 1628; 45 p. March
fire tests; fire protection engineering; fire science;
technology utilization; human beings; thermodynamics;
measurement; machinery; computers; data analysis;
information storage; test methods; history
This paper discusses the breakthroughs in science and
engineering that have brought fire testing technology to
its current state of maturity and provides insight into
the possibilities for future fire test development by
highlighting some areas where advancements are needed.
The quest for understanding the properties of fire has
been a part of the human experience since the first
primitive human viewed the glow of a flame potentially
2.5 million years ago, during the Paleolithic Period.
Since these early observations, humankind slowly
developed the knowledge to use and understand fire.
However, the initial revolution in fire testing did not
begin until recently, in the nineteenth century, when
the basic tools were developed that allowed for remote
measurement of temperatures and heat flow. Discoveries
such as the ?thermoelectric effect? and the development
of the First Law of Thermodynamics led to the creation
of tools for calorimetry providing for the measurement
of temperatures and heat flux. The second revolution in
measuring and understanding fire occurred in the early
twentieth century with worldwide recognition that
scientifically based fire standards were needed to
protect life and property. At the same time engineering
innovation developed electromechanical equipment that
could automatically record data measured from fire
experiments. This advancement in data recording allowed
for the detailed study of measured fire behavior. The
third revolution in fire testing (measurement
technology) occurred in the last half of the twentieth
century with the development of affordable digital data
logging equipment and computers that enhanced data
analysis and the development of scientifically based
predictive models. Wide spread use of technology and
computational methods have opened the theoretical world
which provides insight into the subtle features of fire
dynamics and provides a means for developing a greater
understanding of fire test method performance. Fire
measurement technology now has the scientific and
computational tools to make significant advancements in
the development of fire safety standards. Use of these
tools has directed attention to improvements needed in
testing for structural fire endurance to enhance fire
resistant structural designs. This would include, but
not be limited to, advancements in testing of structural
components, assemblies, and systems under realistic
simulations of fire and load conditions. The objective
for these new tests would be to enhance structural
performance so that uncontrolled building fires result
in burnout without partial or total collapse.
Additionally, these fire measurement technologies would
also lead to improvements in ignition resistant
materials, surface flammability, fire growth, smoke and
toxic gas production that will save lives and reduce the
high cost of unwanted fires.