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Cook County Administration Building Fire, 69 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois, October 17, 2003: Heat Release Rate Experiments and FDS Simulations



Daniel M. Madrzykowski, William D. Walton


On October 17, 2003, in the Cook County Administration Building, 69 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois, a fire resulted in six fatalities and several injuries. In response to a request from the Governor of Illinois, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) agreed to provide technical assistance to the Governor's review team headed by James Lee Witt. 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 visited the fire scene to collect data for the model including; building dimensions, floor plan, door and window locations, materials of construction and furnishing, and fuels. In addition, information collected by the Governor's team on fire service operations and building systems was used to develop the fire timeline. The NIST team also documented the fire damage in order to compare fire model predictions with the observed physical damage. Exemplar interior finish materials and furnishings from the fire floor, but undamaged by flames, were obtained for use in laboratory scale heat release rate experiments. Laboratory scale data for rate of heat release was necessary for the fire model input and comparison to fire model results. This report documents the furnishings, the experiments conducted, and the results of those experiments. This report also explains the development of a computational simulation and the result of those simulations. The NIST simulation started with a small, flaming fire in the storage room and ended with the start of fire suppression activities by the fire department, 16 min 30 s later. The FDS simulations provide insight into the fire development in Suite 1240. The simulations examine the impact of the spread of smoke into the southeast stairway with and without a functioning smoke exhaust shaft. Another simulation examined the impact of automatic fire suppression sprinklers.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 1021
Report Number


fire dynamic simulator, fire growth, fire model, fire reconstruction, fire simulation, heat release rate, office building, smokeview


Madrzykowski, D. and Walton, W. (2004), Cook County Administration Building Fire, 69 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois, October 17, 2003: Heat Release Rate Experiments and FDS Simulations, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 12, 2024)
Created July 1, 2004, Updated February 19, 2017