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Fire Dynamics Simulator: Technical Reference Guide (NISTIR 6467)



Kevin B. McGrattan, Howard R. Baum, Ronald G. Rehm, Anthony P. Hamins, Glenn P. Forney


The idea that the dynamics of a fire might be studied numerically dates back to the beginning of the computer age. Indeed, the fundamental conservation equations governing fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and combustion were first written down over a century ago. Despite this, practical mathematical models of fire (as distinct from controlled combustion) are relatively recent due to the inherent complexity of the problem. Indeed, in his brief history of the early days of fire research, Hoyt Hottel noted "A case can be made for fire being, next to the life processes, the most complex of phenomena to understand". The difficulties revolve about three issues: First, there are an enormous number of possible fire scenarios to consider due to their accidental nature. Second, the physical insight and computing power necessary to perform all the necessary calculations for most fire scenarios are limited. Any fundamentally based study of fires must consider at least some aspects of bluff body aerodynamics, multi-phase flow, turbulent mixing and combustion, radiative transport, and conjugate heat transfer; all of which are active research areas in their own right. Finally, the "fuel" in most fires was never intended as such. Thus, the mathematical models and the data needed to characterize the degradation of the condensed phase materials that supply the fuel may not be available. Indeed, the mathematical modeling of the physical and chemical transformations of real materials as they burn is still in its infancy. In order to make progress, the questions that are asked have to be greatly simplified. To begin with, instead of seeking a methodology that can be applied to all fire problems, we begin by looking at a few scenarios that seem to be most amenable to analysis. Hopefully, the methods developed to study these "simple" problems can be generalized over time so that more complex scenarios can be analyzed.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 6467
Report Number


fire models, computational fluid dynamics, sprinkler activation, fire plumes, flame spread, simulation, ignition


McGrattan, K. , Baum, H. , Rehm, R. , Hamins, A. and Forney, G. (2000), Fire Dynamics Simulator: Technical Reference Guide (NISTIR 6467), NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 16, 2024)
Created January 1, 2000, Updated June 2, 2021