Welcome to the York University fire safety engineering research group’s website! Our team’s research interests include resilient structural fire design, human behaviour in fire, sustainable construction materials in fire, and re-purposing (or adaptation) of heritage building infrastructure for fire safety. The team is located at York University in Toronto Canada.

We are a team of ten graduate and undergraduate research students focusing on education in fire safety with emphasis on applied research. This website’s purpose is to make our research and related engineering interests readily available to the public. 

– YorkU Fire Team

Our research group has its origins from the University of Edinburgh, UK. Following a substantial infrastructure and development commitment at York University by the federal and provincial governments to establish a fire safety engineering research group, our team is predominately based in Toronto. Our research team actively maintains student exchanges with University of Waterloo, Queen’s University, Carleton University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 

The team is led by professional engineer and building codes member, Dr. John Gales. He is also Associate Editor of Fire and Materials (one of the world’s leading fire engineering journals) and Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering (the leading engineering journal in Canada. To date he has approximately 200 scientific contributions.

A voting member of Canada’s national building code (fire protection), he is was also one of four Task Group Chairs in the Fire Protection Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the leading structural fire committee in the United States. As task group chair in 2018 he was responsible for significant portions of the ASCE Manual on Engineering Practice for Structural Fire Engineering. This document represents community consensus on performing fire engineering in the United States. He is also Chair of the committee on Fire Behaviour and Safety of Structures of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers and was recent chair of ASTM’s 100 years of fire testing workshop which represents developments for international standardization. With emphasis on scholarly training for future fire engineers he leads a team that has been recipients of 85 major scholarships and awards in the last 6 years.


Our work is heavily focused on practical research which can be applied in consultancy. The majority of our partners are leading firms based in Toronto.

Our team is active in various international collaborations and student exchanges related to fire safety engineering research with the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, CERIB in France, and NIST in the USA. Our principle industry collaborators are the consulting firms Arup and Entuitive.

Teaching and Education

For our team’s graduate degrees principally offered through York University’s Civil Engineering program, we emphasize the following fire engineering graduate courses either through VOD or in class on site (York):

  • Human Behavior in Fire (CIVL 6490 in York University Calender)
  • Fire Resilience of Structures (CIVL 6491 in York University Calender)
  • Fire Dynamics (Civl 6492 in York University Calender)

Fire Resiliency Lab

Our teams experiments are primarily carried out at the York University Fire Resiliency lab.  This is a first of its kind laboratory for the analysis of building materials based on fire resiliency concepts. Fire resiliency is the study of the degree of damage caused by a range of fire exposures, and the subsequent levels of repair necessary. The laboratory includes a 15x20m strong floor with a 12m high strong wall system. Strong floor and wall configurations enable fixed connections to them replicating as built foundation configurations. Customizable heating trays with outputs of 1000°C (or 2MW energy output) are available. The lab also includes technology for cone calorimeter technology and thermogravimetric at material scales. Instrumentation technology for measuring strain and deformation in fire is also available in the lab. Environmental technology for the treatment of emissions are also enabled and included in this lab. Protocols for collecting and treating containment suppression water are followed. The fire resiliency lab also contains a suite of testing apparatus frames to test assemblies and materials at small to full-scale.

Human Factors Lab

Our research group is equipped with the latest in tracking technology (LIDAR systems and high resolution cameras) for generating movement and behavioral data collection for everyday pedestrian circulation to high motivation evacuation scenarios. The equipment is mobile and can be brought to a range of building infrastructures for study.


Media requests for team lead Dr. John Gales are best made via email for a rapid answer (text interviews in French can be accommodated if requested). General inquiries can be made via email at jgales@yorku.ca. 

Want to join us? See Prospective Students.