Fire-breathing dragons have historically conjured up images of Lunar New Year’s celebrations, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology has taken the concept to conduct special fire tests in an effort to study the issue of protect thatched-roof structures from fire.
To better understand the mechanisms by which firebrands—the airborne, glowing embers released by an outdoor fire—can ignite a thatched roof, NIST mechanical engineer Samuel Manzello and research scientist Sayaka Suzuki of Japan’s National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster (NRIFD) used the NIST Firebrand Generator, nicknamed the NIST Dragon, to shower continuous streams of firebrands upon 1.1-meter-by-0.9-meter (3.6-foot-by-3-foot) roof mockups made from water reed, bamboo and wood.
Reported in the latest issue of Fire Safety Journal, these first-ever tests to study the firebrand vulnerabilities of thatched roofs were performed in an NRIFD wind facility specifically designed for fire experiments. The researchers simulated the movement of firebrands at two wind speeds.
“Research into large outdoor fires — such as wildfires spreading into urban areas in the United States or urban fires following earthquakes in Japan — lags behind other areas of fire safety science,” said Manzello. “In both cases, wind-driven embers are a major contributor to the spread of fire from structure to structure. Yet, we have only observational data, not quantifiable measurement, of how that occurs. Our study was done to continue filling in that knowledge gap.”
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