On October 1, 2009, fire research history was made at the FM Global Research Campus in West Glocester, Rhode Island. In a joint project with HFSC, FM Global scientists conducted a comprehensive research project to identify, analyze and evaluate the environmental impacts caused by home structure fires.
A series of tests were conducted in the state-of-the-art indoor fire test facility, which is the largest fire test laboratory in the world. Identical 15’x20’ rooms were constructed and outfitted with furnishings typical of a home living room. Only one had a fire sprinkler installed.
Elaborate measuring and recording devices were installed throughout both rooms, along with camera equipment to videotape the fires from various angles.
Dozens of guest observers and media representatives safely watched the fires from an enclosed observation deck above the floor of the fire laboratory. Each fire was allowed to burn without firefighter intervention for 10 minutes, determined to represent the amount of time it takes for discovery of a fire, making the emergency call, and arrival and setup of the fire department.
The protected structure contained one sprinkler, which activated 44 seconds after the fire was set. The single sprinkler controlled the fire throughout the 10-minute holding period. Damage was minimal.
In contrast, the non-sprinklered fire went to flashover in approximately five minutes and the contents and structure were 95% damaged. When firefighters responded, the fire was fully out of control.
While this full-scale test provided a dramatic comparison of fire loss in the protected and non-protected structures, the main purpose was to compare the following in sprinklered and non-sprinklered home fires:
- The types, quantity and duration of air and water pollutants released from a home fire as well as the water usage from fire sprinklers and firefighters’ hoses.
- The environmental impact resulting from burning household furnishings and finish materials as well as disposal of the fire-damaged contents of a home.
- The carbon footprint associated with rebuilding a burned home.