Residential Fire Mitigation

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

Increasing firefighter safety by providing the fire service with scientific knowledge on the dynamics of attic and exterior fires.
  • Overview
  • Findings
  • Updates
  • Resources

Under an award from the the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program (EMW-2011-FP-00611), the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes leads a two-year study to examine fire service attic fire mitigation tactics and the hazards posed to firefighter safety by the changing modern residential fire environment and construction practices.

To evaluate the exterior fire hazards of various wall construction types within the Study of Residential Attic Fire Mitigation Tactics and Exterior Fire Spread Hazards on Fire Fighter Safety (Attic & Exterior Fires), FSRI performs medium scale testing on 8ft x 8ft wall sections looking at ignition, flame spread, peak heat release rate and exposure potential. Results from the medium scale testing are used to establish parameters for eave experiments to further evaluate flame spread along with increasing the understanding of the dynamics of how fires transition from exterior to attic fires. Full-scale attics are constructed and instrumented to evaluate the effectiveness of four fire service suppression tactics on attic fires. Each tactic is evaluated both with and without vertical ventilation or simulated attic burn-through to understand the fire dynamics during attic fires. Field experiments are conducted to investigate the fire dynamics of knee wall fires and the effectiveness of current mitigation tactics for knee wall and half attic space fires.


The US Fire Administration estimates 10,000 residential building 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. These attic fires are very challenging for the fire service to mitigate and have led to line of duty deaths and injuries. Further complicating attic fires, current building practices include new products to achieve better energy performance to meet newer code requirements with little understanding of fire performance or the impact on firefighter safety. This study provides the fire service with the science necessary to examine their standard operating procedures utilized during fires that start on the outside of the structure and during attic fires.


This study provided the evidence needed to examine existing standard operating procedures utilized during attic fires and fires that start outside the structure.

The research demonstrated that wall construction plays an important role in the growth and spread of the fire and that the water application tactics applied on the fireground impact fire suppression and the safety of the firefighters involved.

These results were translated into twelve tactical considerations for use to mitigate attic, knee wall, and exterior fires.


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Published: September 7, 2012