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On October 17, 2003, in the Cook County Administration Building, 69 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois, a fire resulted in six fatalities and several injuries. The Governor of Illinois established a panel, headed by James Lee Witt & Associates (JLWA), to review the fire incident. In response to a request from the Governor of Illinois, NIST agreed to provide technical assistance to the Governor's review team.
NIST's focus was the simulation of the fire using the Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS) and visualizations using Smokeview to provide insight into the fire growth and smoke movement. A team from NIST made eight visits to the fire building between October 21st and November 19th, 2003. The model input information collected by the NIST team included; measurements and documentation of the areas involved in the fire, the location, size and time of opening of windows and doors, and the fuels (i.e. furnishings, carpeting, wall covering etc.) that were involved in the fire. In addition, information collected by the JLWA team on fire service operations, building systems, etc. was used to develop the fire timeline and input relevant to changes in ventilation. The NIST team also documented the fire damage in order to compare the predicted fire model results with the observed physical damage.
This incident provided an opportunity to examine and test furnishings from other areas of the building that were similar to those destroyed by the fire. The objective of measuring the heat release rate of exemplar furnishings was to develop benchmark data for comparison with FDS results.
The report, "Cook County Administration Building Fire, 69 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois, October 17, 2003: Heat Release Rate Experiments and FDS Simulations (NIST SP 1021)," documents the furnishings tested, and the experiments conducted and discusses the results of those experiments. The report also explains the development of the computational simulations and the result of those simulations. Finally, the report compares the model predictions with the observations from the fire scene.
NIST fire experiment, single workstation, 360 seconds after ignition, near peak HRR of 3.3 MW. (Photo credit: NIST)