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Flammable and Combustible Liquid Spill/Burn Patterns



Anthony D. Putorti Jr., Jay A. McElroy, Daniel M. Madrzykowski


Discussions with fire investigators indicate that it would be beneficial to have the ability to predict the quantity of liquid fuel necessary to create a burn pattern of a given size. Full-scale spill and fire experiments were conducted with gasoline and kerosene on vinyl, wood parquet, and carpet covered plywood floors using various quantities of fuel. Spill areas were measured, and for non-porous floors the results were compared to analytical predictions. Burn pattern areas are correlated with the spill areas, resulting in a method for predicting the quantity of spilled fuel required to form a burn pattern of a given size. The heat release rates of the fuel spill fires were determined through experiment, and compared to an existing reference for burning liquid pools of the same surface area. The peak spill fire heat release rates for non-porous surfaces were found to be approximately 1/8 to 1/4 of those from equivalent area pool fires. The peak heat release rates for spill fires on carpet were found to be approximately equal to those from equivalent area pool fires. The heat release rates can be used as inputs for fire modeling or for evaluating fire scenarios.
NIJ Report 604-00


accelerants, arson, building fires, burn patterns, carpets, char, charring, fire investigations, fire measurements, flammable liquids, floors, floor coverings, heat release rate, pour patterns, spill fires


Putorti, A. , McElroy, J. and Madrzykowski, D. (2001), Flammable and Combustible Liquid Spill/Burn Patterns, NIJ Report 604-00, [online], (Accessed July 13, 2024)


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Created March 1, 2001, Updated February 19, 2017