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The Dalmarnock Fire Tests, 2006, UK


2006 Press Release

27th July, 2006, Edinburgh. Updated on 14th November 2007

The BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with BBC Horizon and other partners, has conducted a series of large scale fire tests in a real high rise building. The building, a 22-storey concrete tower, is located at 4 Millerfield Place, Dalmarnock, Glasgow (UK). This building, generously provided by the Glasgow Housing Authority (GHA), was evacuated of tenants and is scheduled for demolition in a few months. The experiments took place on July 25th & 26th, 2006 with the close collaboration of the Strathclyde Fire Brigade.

These experiments attempted to create realistic scenario in which modern fire safety engineering tools of all natures could be put to a test. Thus improving our understanding of how emergencies of this nature can be handled in a most effective manner. The experiments did not attempt to reproduce the events of September 11th, 2001.

The Dalmarnock experiments aim at understanding fire dynamics in real buildings, the interaction with different ventilation schemes and the effect of fire on the structure. The enclosure was fully monitored with hundred of sensors, following the philosophy of the FireGrid project: continuous data collection from sensors with instantaneous relay to an emergency control system.

All instrumentation was successfully set, tested and operated by a team of more than 20 students (undergraduate and post-graduate) from the University of Edinburgh all involved in a Structural & Fire Safety Engineering course. Thus, beyond scientific tests, these experiments were primarily an educational exercise.

Two tests in a fully furnished room were conducted together with several smoke venting tests in a staircase. The experiments involved two identical single-family flats with a fully furnished lounge. In both cases ignition was accomplished by lighting a waste paper basket adjacent to a sofa. In the first experiment, the fire was allowed to grow until flashover conditions were reached. Then, fire fighters intervention extinguished the blaze. In the second experiment, the ventilation of the enclosure was modified as the fire grew by remotely controlling the opening of windows and door within the flat. Fire fighters intervention extinguished the blaze when other items around the sofa were ignited.

Both lounge rooms were furnished with the main fire load being a two-seat sofa. Other items present include bookcases, table set with chairs, computer stations, curtains, lamps, piles of paper and other minor items. All arranged as it would be in real dwellings.

The lounge was fully instrumented with more than 400 thermocouples, 20 heat gauges, 8 airflow meters, a 4x4 grid of lasers to measure smoke concentration, 45 smoke detectors of different types, 16 cameras, thermocouples for external wall temperatures and strain gauges in structural elements (walls, ceiling and floor).

See short video of Fire Test One

In addition to the information on fire dynamics, these tests provided results to address the effect of fire on:

An essential aspect of these experiments was to establish the capabilities of early fire detection to provide most effective warning but also to deliver continuous information that allows monitoring and controlling fire growth and smoke propagation. An extensive array of monitoring and smoke detection systems was provided by Vision Fire & Security.

An international round-robin study of fire modelling predictions is being conducted in parallel to asses the capabilities of current design tools to predict fire and structural behaviour.

These experiments were conducted partially in support of a BBC Horizon programme, to be broadcast in September 2006. This programme is looking at these experiments, modern fire safety science and the work of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering in the context of the 5th Anniversary of September 11th, 2001.

The experiments were conducted with funding from The University of Edinburgh, EPSRC, DTI and the BBC Horizon Show. Support was provided in many different ways also by Arup, Building Research Establishment (BRE), British Cement Association (BCA), BASF Construction Systems, Concrete Repairs Limited, Glasgow Caledonian University and Packer Engineering.

BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering
The School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh
The King's Buildings, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JL
Email: Fax: 0131 650 6554