Best Paper at IfireSS in Naples Italy

Pool fire testOur research team traveled to Naples Italy to attend the IfireSS conference. Ben Nicoletta presented his paper to a  keen audience. The paper, Performance of Gfrp stay-in- place Form work for Bridge Dec ks after Real and Simulated Fire Damage (download herewas an interesting work with collaboration from University of Waterloo and Queen’s University. It is a preliminary study which we are currently developing into a larger project. Ben’s hard work paid off and he won best paper at the conference. Currently Ben is interning in a joint research collaboration with the global consultancy firm Entuitive (via graduate Matt Smith). Ben was supported at the conference by research team students Hailey Todd and Chloe Jeanneret. Chloe is performing an internship with Dr. Guillermo Rein’s Haze Lab at Imperial College and the trip was not too far for her. Hailey is working on stadium design.

Ben receives his Best Paper award, and we pose for a group photo outside the venue.
Naples 2
With any conference the social program was great. We were able to explore many archaeology sites in Naples., here Hailey uses a selfie stick the way it was meant to be used, peaking behind a closed gate to look at a 2000 year old stairwell!

Fire and Materials Journal

Fire and materials 3Very exciting to announce that effective this year I am joining John Wiley’s journal, Fire and Materials as an Associate Editor. In this role I will be considering mainly the structural materials papers. Fire and Materials is one of the more older peer reviewed journals for our research community beginning in 1976. The journal is led by Steven Grayson. More information is to come on this initiative. For now be sure to check out my own Fire and Materials paper on the Creep of Prestressing steel which can be downloaded here .

Interflam 2016 Conference Papers

Our team is very excited to be travelling to the Interflam conference this year. There we will be presenting 4 papers in posters and oral presentations. Papers have primarily been led by students on the team and involve a great and diverse set of collaborators. The conference is this July 4th through 6th in the UK. In no order a brief description of each is below:

Design For Elderly Egress In Fire Situations.  By Folk, L., Gales, J., Gwynne, S., Kinsey, M.

PFST2.pngThe paper represents a follow up to our Human Behavior in Fire Symposium paper last fall. The work deals with aging populations and evacuation modelling. It is a lead on to a new grant from NSERC Canada in collaboration with Arup.


Behaviour of Char Layer in Fire-Damaged Box Section Timber Beams. By Quiquero, H., Gales, J., and Hadjisophocleous, G

PFST3The work is the product of a NSERC student scholar’s research by Quiquero and is a follow on to her Canadian Society of Civil Engineers study on mechanics of Timber beams after exposure from severe temperature exposure., That will be presented this month.


Improving Fire Safety Of Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymers For Bridge Infrastructures. By Gales, J., Nagy, N., Weckman., B., Gaudreault, C., and Smith, H.

PFST4The work is based on a novel materials in fire collaboration between the University of Waterloo and Carleton University. Thoughts and insights into improving fire performance of composite polymers are discussed.



Post-fire Guidance for the Critical Temperature of Prestressing Steel.  By Roberston, L., and Gales, J.

This workPFST follows my steel in fire forum presentation that illustrated that post fire guidance given about the strength of prestressing steel after fire, may be in need of revision. Results of over 100 tests are used to support these preliminary conclusions.


The conference should be an exciting time this July to present these papers, see other’s studies and catch up with old colleagues from across the ‘pond’. Other conference updates will be posted soon.


Hauntings and the Denver Equitable Building

The Denver fire tests can be considered first attempt at ‘organised’ floor tests in North America, however; their modern legacy are for the building they supported and the ghost stories it tells today
The Denver fire tests can be considered first attempt at ‘organised’ floor tests in North America, however; their modern legacy is also for the building they supported and the ghost stories it tells today.

The Denver Fire tests of 1890 were revolutionary to the practice of fire safety engineering. The tests were performed under direction of architectural firm, Andrews, Jaques and Rantoul. The objective was to compare three allegedly ‘fire-proof’ flooring arch systems which had been proposed for the Denver Equitable Building through a competitive bid process. For the building contract, the Pioneer fire proof construction company had the lowest bid. The Wight Fire proof company bid slightly more. These companies proposed similar structural systems of floor arches of dense fire-clay. Thomas Lee, who bid the highest for the building contract, proposed an arched system of  porous terra-cotta structural system (see the below floor configurations). Lee realized he out bid

Three competing floor arch systems for the Denver Equitable Building
Three competing floor arch systems for the Denver Equitable Building. Lees system differed to the other proposed systems. These differences included: the orientation of the arch; the choice of material; and the configuration of the the tile itself.

his competitors, but also feeling his product much more superior in fire he asked the architects to consider comparative testing of all three proposed flooring systems. The architects and building owner agreed on the provision that all three companies were willing to participate. The three companies agreed to the terms and the architectural firm drafted a testing schedule of: A still load test- increasing until failure of the arch system; shock (impact) loading repeating until failure; Fire and water test alternating until failure; and continuous heating of “high heat” until failure. After testing, the architects came to the conclusion, that although Thomas Lee out bid his competitors his flooring system had out performed those of his competitors in this test series.

Today, we consider these tests revolutionary in the advancement of our fire science field by motivating progress towards organized fire testing of building materials. The building that inspired these tests, the Denver Equitable Building was built shortly after that test series and still stands today.  The building even survived a major fire in the 1930s. However, the occupants of the building have different stories to tell. Stories of a more ‘spookish’ nature. Fittingly for Halloween it is appropriate to share these.

The Denver tests were photographed. In this photo you can see the ghostly camera effect of the man in the black suit. Because images needed time to develop, he inspects the first beam then proceeds to the next; the picture is not done processing so it appears like a ghost is captured in the photo
The Denver tests were photographed. In this photo you can see the ghostly camera effect of the man in the black suit. Photography in the 1800s needed time to develop images. The photo shows the man inspecting the first floor then in the same image you can see he proceeds to the next. The picture though appears like a ghost is captured in the photo.

After publishing earlier on this topic on the Edinburgh Fire Research Blog in 2012, I was alerted to the writings of Kathleen Barlow on the Denver Equitable Building. Kathleen’s article, Spirits and Scandals tells of several ghost stories related to the Denver Equitable Building. She writes of two crimes of passion conducted by two jealous husbands on two separate occasions at the building site. Also recounted are tales how an individual died in the building shortly after constructed, and how a janitor, Andrew Anderson, fell to his death washing windows from the ninth floor. These aren’t the ghost stories though they may explain them. Today, she reports the occupiers of the building occasionally report the smell of aftershave in areas of the building. A person could be sitting there move a few metres and the smell would disappear. Some claim the smell to be from the deceased janitor of the building. Others report that when they speak ill things of the building strange events happen to them and their possessions. And the most spooky of all, stories of figures that resemble people that vanish. Usually when asked who they were and what they were doing in the building, they disappear. Yet one figure did not; a women who entered the building early one morning saw a man in very classical overall garments cleaning the halls. The man looked at her and spoke “you shouldn’t be here so early. Don’t you know the building is haunted.” When she contacted the company responsible for cleaning, they informed her that they had no one working there that morning, and certainly no one fitting the description she provided….

These old buildings have history to tell. Some scientific, some not so. But still interestingly enough for a scare on Halloween.

Fire videos from British Pathé

The British Pathé has recently uploaded their film archive to Youtube. Among these films are about 200 or so short videos about building fires,  fire fighting measures and even fire research. The films were recorded between 1896 and 1973. The digitization was performed in 2002 using finances from a National Lottery grant (see the telegraph article for more details here on their project) . The catalog can be searched here. Some selected videos though are provided below which are worth a look:

Above are three early promotional videos of fire research. Most of the British fire research station.

The crystal palace fire can also be seen from video archives.

Empire state building fire from the 1960s.