Attic Fires

Fire Service Summary Report Released: Study of Residential Attic Fire Mitigation Tactics and Exterior Fire Spread Hazards on Firefighter Safety

November 26, 2014

Attic fires pose many hazards for the fire service. When a fire occurs in an attic, it is common it goes unnoticed/reported until smoke or flames are visible from the outside of the structure. Because they take longer to detect, attic fires are more dangerous for firefighters and residents. In a fire situation, the attic ventilation system, which is designed to reduce moisture accumulation by drawing fresh air low from the eaves and exhausting moisture laden warm air near the peak, create an optimal fire growth and spread situation by supplying oxygen to the fire and exhausting hot gases. An estimated 10,000 residential attic fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 30 civilian deaths, 125 civilian injuries and $477 million in property loss.

The location of the attic creates several difficulties for the fire service. Firefighters must decide whether to fight the fire from inside the structure, from the outside or a combination of the two. This the decision is complicated by the constant hazard of ceiling collapse, which has the potential to rapidly deteriorate conditions in the living spaces. A piece of gypsum board may fall or be pulled from the ceiling making the relatively clear and cool conditions in the living space change very quickly endangering firefighters executing a search and rescue operation as part of their life safety mission.

Further complicating the decision are the hazards associated with roof structure collapse, creating deadly conditions for firefighters operating on and under the roof. Structural collapse accounted for 180 firefighter deaths between 1979 and 2002 of which one-third occurred in residential structures . Many of these incidents involved a roof falling on firefighters or firefighters falling through the roof during firefighting operations on attic fires.

The purpose of this study is to increase firefighter safety by providing the fire service with scientific knowledge on the dynamics of attic and exterior fires and the influence of coordinated fire mitigation tactics from full-scale fire testing in realistic residential structures.


Research Project: Residential Attic Fire Mitigation Tactics and Exterior Fire Spread Hazards on Firefighter Safety
Report Title: Fire Service Summary Report: Study of Residential Attic Fire Mitigation Tactics and Exterior Fire Spread Hazards on Firefighter Safety
Report Authors: Steve Kerber and R. Zevotek
Download the Report: https://dx.doi.org/10.54206/102376/PXTQ2256
Release Date: November 26, 2014

Residential Attic Fire Mitigation Tactics and Exterior Fire Spread Hazards on Firefighter Safety