The impact of size and location of pool fires on compartment fire behaviour.
Thesis DisciplineFire Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
An understanding of compartment fire behaviour is important for fire protection engineers. For design purposes, whether to use a prescriptive code or performance based design, life safety and property protection issues are required to be assessed. The use of design fires in computer modelling is the general method to determine fire safety. However these computer models are generally limited to the input of one design fire, with consideration of the complex interaction between fuel packages and the compartment environment being simplified. Of particular interest is the Heat Release Rate, HRR, as this is the commonly prescribed design parameter for fire modelling. If the HRR is not accurate then it can be subsequently argued that the design scenario may be flawed. Therefore the selection of the most appropriate fire design scenario is critical, and an increased level of understanding of compartment behaviour is an invaluable aid to fire engineering assumptions. This thesis details an experimental study to enhance the understanding of the impact and interaction that the size and location of pool fires within an enclosure have upon the compartment fire behaviour. Thirty four experiments were conducted in a reduced scale compartment (½ height) with dimensions of 3.6m long by 2.4m wide by 1.2m high using five typical ventilation geometries (fully open, soffit, door, window and small window). Heptane pool fires were used, located in permutations of three evenly distributed locations within the compartment (rear, centre and front) as well as larger equivalent area pans located only in the centre. This thesis describes the experimental development, setup and results of the experimental study. To assist in the classification of compartment fire behaviour during the experiments, a ‘phi’ meter was developed to measure the time dependent equivalence ratio. The phi meter was developed and configured to measure O₂, CO₂ and CO. The background development, calibration, and experimental results are reported. A review of compartment fire modelling using Fire Dynamics Simulator, has also been completed and the results discussed. The results of this experimental study were found to have significant implications for Fire Safety Engineering in that the size of the fire is not as significant as the location of the fire. The effect of a fire near the vent opening was found to have a significant impact on compartment fire behaviour with the vent located fuel source increasing the total compartment heat release rate by a factor of 1.7 to that of a centrally placed pool fire of the same total fuel area. The assumption that a fire located in the centre of the room provides for the highest heat release rate is not valid for post-flashover compartment fires. The phi meter was found to provide good agreement with the equivalence ratio calculated from total compartment mass loss rates, and the results of FDS modelling indicate that the use of the model in its current form can not be applied to complex pool fire geometries.