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Simulations of an Attic Fire in a Wood Frame Residential Structure-Chicago, IL



Craig G. Weinschenk, Daniel M. Madrzykowski, Kristopher J. Overholt


The Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) fire model, which is developed and maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), was used to provide insight into the dynamics of a fire that occurred on November 2, 2012, within a 2 1⁄2 story, single family structure in Chicago, IL, that resulted in the death of a fire captain. The inputs for the FDS simulations are documented in this report. The fire started in the attic and spread down through an opening into the enclosed porch on the rear of the structure. This resulted in ventilation limited (fuel rich) fire conditions in the attic and rear porch areas. The spread of fire and hot gases into the second floor of the structure was limited by a closed steel-faced, wood-framed door. After exposure to the elevated temperatures and pressure from the fire in the porch area, the wood frame of the door decomposed, the steel faces of the door failed, and the door collapsed inward. The door failure resulted in the establishment of a flow path between the higher pressure and higher temperature conditions in the enclosed porch and the lower pressure and lower temperature conditions in the hallway and kitchen areas of the second floor. The temperature of the gases that flowed into the hallway exceeded 260 ◦C (500 ◦F) at face height. Unfortunately, a captain and firefighter were advancing a hose line in the hallway near the door at the time of the door failure. The captain was overcome by the rapid change in conditions before he could exit to the safety of the kitchen area. After a Mayday call, the captain was rescued from the structure but later succumbed to his injuries.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1838
Report Number


Flow Path, LODD, Fire Service


Weinschenk, C. , Madrzykowski, D. and Overholt, K. (2014), Simulations of an Attic Fire in a Wood Frame Residential Structure-Chicago, IL, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 18, 2024)
Created October 17, 2014, Updated November 10, 2018