Live Burn Research

In October 2011, with the generous financial assistance of the San Mateo County Private Defender Program the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, The Arson Research Project conducted live-fire research in Palo Alto, CA.  The goal was to compare fire patterns and maximum room temperatures created by fires allowed to burn beyond flashover in both the absence and presence of an ignitable liquid. The research consisted of burning four 12’ by 12’ furnished burn cells beyond flashover.  Three of the burn cells were ignited without liquid accelerant; the fourth burn cell was ignited with a liquid accelerant (paint thinner). Temperature measurement instrumentation was installed in order to monitor temperature changes at various locations in each cell. The burn patterns created in each cell were virtually identical and indistinguishable.  The suspected burn patterns that were present where the paint thinner was poured and ignited were present in every one of the burn cells.

Download Flashover Analysis Report

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The following companies and organizations contributed to the project:

Stan Teng Architectural Studio, San Francisco, CA – building design
Home Depot, Colma, CA – building materials
Select Hardwood Floors, San Jose, CA – flooring; material and installation
Goodwill of San Jose – building furnishings
Rebuilding Together, San Jose – flooring
Hengehold Trucks – truck rental

Colma Fire

A special thanks to Colma Fire Department for construction and fire suppression, W.L. Butler Construction for providing the location for the burn, GreenWaste of Palo Alto for debris removal, and to the countless volunteers who made this event possible.