Northbrook, Ill., Oct. 26, 2015 — UL, a global safety science organization, announced that its Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) has received nearly $1 million in grant funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

The NIJ addresses the needs of the fire and explosion investigation community by funding research to better understand fire dynamics and improve ways to detect and analyze evidence at fire scenes. As UL’s first grant received for research supporting the fire investigation community, the funding will support a two-year study examining how ventilation impacts fire patterns and electrical system damage in homes that incorporate modern construction practices.

“This is the first time we have received funding from the National Institute of Justice, and we are appreciative of their support,” said Steve Kerber, Director of FSRI. “We’re thrilled to expand into an important area of fire research and safety to contribute to the fire investigator community’s knowledge base. As home design and furnishings continue to change, we will need scientific research to keep up with these developments and help both fight and investigate fires.”

Over the past 30 years, the evolution of home construction design and contents has compounded how ventilation influences fires. Modern construction practices, such as open-floor plans, great rooms, and synthetic materials have resulted in faster-burning fires. The manner in which a fire receives oxygen also greatly impacts the fire. For example, a door left open by a fleeing occupant or a failing window could greatly impact the spread of a fire and related home damage. Fire investigators must understand fire dynamics to properly identify the origin and cause of a fire.

UL has conducted fire research to assist firefighting tactics under Department of Homeland Security grants for the past 10 years; and, in 2015, various government and other grant programs have awarded FSRI nearly $3 million in funding. The NIJ research project will draw from and enhance past research sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters grants addressing the impact of horizontal ventilation through doors and windows and the impact of vertical ventilation through roofs.

Research outcomes will provide a baseline for future trainings and the modification of reference materials, such as the National Fire Protection Association’s Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations. It will also provide the fire investigation community with scientific-based comparisons of the types of ventilation that occur in fires.

UL hopes this is the first step in many toward using laboratory environments to analyze basic investigation practices and provide support for the approach of determining the cause and origin.