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Heat Release Rate: The Single Most Important Variable in Fire Hazard



Vyto Babrauskas, Richard Peacock


Heat release rate measurements are sometimes seen by manufacturers and product users as just another piece of data to gather. It is the purpose of this paper to explain why heat release rate is in fact, the single most important variable in characterizing the 'flammability' of products and their consequent fire hazard. Examples of typical fire histories are given which illustrate that even though fire deaths are primarily caused by toxic gases, the heat release rate is the best predictor of fire hazard. Conversely, the relative toxicity of the combustion gases plays a smaller role. The delays in ignition time, as measured by various Bunsen burner type tests, also have only a minor effect on the development of fire hazard.
Proceedings Title
Fire Retardant Chemicals Association (FRCA)
Conference Dates
October 20-25, 1990
Conference Location
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, US
Conference Title
Fire Safety Developments and Testing: Toxicity--Heat Release--Product Development--Combustion Corrosivity


heat release rate, fire hazard, fire endurance, building fires, fire tests


Babrauskas, V. and Peacock, R. (1990), Heat Release Rate: The Single Most Important Variable in Fire Hazard, Fire Retardant Chemicals Association (FRCA), Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, US, [online], (Accessed April 21, 2024)
Created October 19, 1990, Updated October 12, 2021