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Flammability Reduction Group

The Flammability Reduction Group develops, advances, and deploys measurement science to reduce fire hazard of building contents and construction materials. Carries out mission-related measurement science research and services to reduce material ignition probability, fire growth and spread, and environmental impacts; and develop codes and standards for cost-effective, fire-safe building contents and construction materials.

Staff Spotlight

Credit: Michelle Donnelly/NIST


July 29, 2020

Remembering Randy Shields

John “Randy” Shields, a physical scientist in the Flammability Reduction Group of EL’s Fire Research Division, died suddenly of a heart attack on June 27, 2020.

Born in 1958 in Alexandria, Virginia, Shields graduated from the University of Maryland in 1985 with a B.S. in geology. In 1986 he began his career at NIST as an engineering science technician, inspired partly by his father, John, who was a NIST physicist. Randy’s brother, Scott, also worked at NIST, as a physical science technician, before retiring in 2019.

Throughout his 34-year NIST career, Randy was known as a go-to expert for analyzing technical problems and providing constructive solutions to reduce the flammability of products and evaluate fire-retardant technologies. He co-authored 71 scientific publications and provided input for numerous other publications.

One of Shields’ accomplishments was the technical approach he developed for federal open-flame fire-testing of mattresses, which proved that compliance with a Consumer Product Safety Commission-published standard resulted in an 82% reduction in deaths caused by mattress fires over a 10-year period.

“He was involved in a lot of challenging, impactful, and as Randy would frequently say, fun, projects. He was always in the labs designing, building and tinkering with different tools for testing the burning behavior of materials,” says Shields’ supervisor, Flammability Reduction Group Leader Rick Davis. Engineering technician Ed Hnetkovsky says Shields seemed able to “pull a new part out of his hat — whether it was tube fittings, thermocouples, or a myriad of other potential parts” to make a device work so that a project could continue in the lab.




NIST conducts full-scale experiments to demonstrate flammability risk of Residential Upholstered Furniture (RUF) and potential mitigation strategies

The NIST Flammability Reduction Group (FRG) is conducting a series of full-scale fire experiments in collaboration with the National Fire Research Laboratory (NFRL) …


News and Updates

Interflam 2019

Six members of the NIST Fire Research Division (including three current or former members of the Flammability Reduction Group) recently traveled to the Royal


Three members of the NIST Flammability Reduction group recently traveled to Turku, Finland for the biennial European Meeting on Fire Retardant Polymeric

Projects and Programs

Engineered Fire Safe Products

This project will conduct research to support the use of lightweight (wood, plastics, and composites)-engineered fire safe products (L-EFSP) with long fire


Estimating the Impact of 16 CFR Part 1633 on Bed Fire Outcomes

Stanley W. Gilbert, David T. Butry, Richard G. Gann, Rick D. Davis
Effective July 1, 2007, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission promulgated a Standard that would severely reduce the heat release rate and the early heat



The Consolidated Model of Fire and Smoke Transport, CFAST, is a computer program that fire investigators, safety officials, engineers, architects and builders

FDS and Smokeview

Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model of fire-driven fluid flow. The software solves numerically a form of the Navier

Tools and Instruments

Cone Calorimeter

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the fire community was pushing for reliable bench-scale tools to measure material flammability based on heat release rate. A

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