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Technical Study of the Sofa Super Store Fire, South Carolina, June 18, 2007, Volume I

Published

Author(s)

Nelson P. Bryner, Stephen P. Fuss, Bryan W. Klein, Anthony D. Putorti Jr.

Abstract

A fire occurred on the evening of June 18, 2007, in the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, SC. NIST analyzed the fire ground, consulted with other experts, and performed computer simulations of fire growth alternatives. Based on these analyses, the following sequence of events is likely to have occurred. A fire began in packing material and discarded furniture outside an enclosed loading dock area. The fire spread to the loading dock, then into both the retail showroom and warehouse spaces. During the early stages of the fire in the two latter locations, the fire spread was slowed by the limited supply of fresh air. This under-ventilation led to generation of a large mass of pyrolyzed and only partially oxidized effluent. The smoke and combustible gases flowed into the interstitial space below the roof and above the suspended ceiling of the main retail showroom. As this space filled with unburned fuel, the hot smoke also seeped through the suspended ceiling into the main showroom and formed a hot smoke layer below the suspended ceiling. Up to this time, the extent of fire spread into the interstitial space was not visible to fire fighters in the store. If the fire spread had been visible to the fire fighters in the store, it would have provided a direct indication of a fire hazard in the showroom. Meanwhile, the fire at the back of the main showroom and the gas mixture below the suspended ceiling were both still fuel rich. When the front windows were broken out or vented, the inflow of additional air allowed the heat release rate of the fire to intensify rapidly and added air to the layer of unburned fuel below the suspended ceiling enabling the ignition of the unburned fuel/air mixture. The fire swept from the rear to the front of the main showroom extremely quickly, and then into the west and east showrooms. Nine fire fighters were killed in the Sofa Super Store fire. Based on NIST s simulation of events, this report includes eleven recommendations ...
Citation
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 1118
Report Number
1118

Keywords

fire investigation, fire modeling, fire spread, fire sprinklers, furniture flammability, retail store, fire, sprinklers
Created March 14, 2011, Updated November 10, 2018