Skip to main content
Welcome to the cutting edge of safety science—Learn more about our rebrand.
  • Feature Story

Fighting Fire with Science


May 22, 2015

UL Burn

Not all science is created in beakers or test tubes. UL is researching the science behind fires, but not in office with a lab coat. Researchers turned to their firefighting roots to build houses, set them on fire and fight the fire – just like they would in the field.

UL's Largest Fire Lab

UL’s unique fire building, a 14,400-square-foot structure with a 48-foot-tall movable ceiling, contains one of the largest land-based elevators in North America. This unusual lab became the residence of two life-size homes, a 1,200-square-foot ranch and a two-story 3,200-square-foot colonial home, complete with carpet, cabinets, paint, furniture and even a television.

Fire Burn at UL

Fire raged through the homes 26 times — often more than once a day.

Burned furniture at UL

On days when experiments were not conducted, construction experts cleared all burned materials, plastered, repainted and refurnished the homes.

Steve Kerber, Research Director

Researchers used hundreds of cables and wires to collect information from 150 sensors placed around the homes. These sensors collected data on heat flux, temperature, gas concentration and air speed to better understand how a fire burns.

UL Fire

Researchers used nearly 100 cameras to examine how a fire moves from room to room. Many of the cameras became damaged or burned by the fires.

UL Firefighter

UL is making the world a safer place through unconventional experiments, changing how firefighters operate in the field. Now, firefighters have the science to back-up or change the strategies and tactics handed-down through generations.