Study of Coordinated Fire Attack Utilizing Acquired Structures

Study of Coordinated Fire Attack Utilizing Acquired Structures

Expanding previous research into new single-family homes, multi-family dwellings, and strip malls.
three story structure on fire
  • Overview
  • Findings
  • Updates
  • Resources


The Study of Coordinated Fire Attack Utilizing Acquired Structures (Coordinated Fire Attack) is a DHS/FEMA AFG supported project examining coordinated firefighting tactics utilizing acquired structures. The increased understanding of fire behavior that has emerged from previous AFG funded research raised many questions that revolved around what constitutes a coordinated fire attack and how to effectively accomplish it in different types of structures. To help answer these questions, the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes team brings their lab to the street to conduct experiments across three different structure types: single-family  homes, multi-family dwellings, and a commercial structure (strip mall).

For the single-family homes, FSRI travels to Ohio and teams up with the City of Sidney Fire Department (Sidney, OH) and the Beavercreek Township Fire Department (Beavercreek, OH), conducting twenty experiments across eight acquired single-family residences. This series studies variables including the position of initial application of water, the ventilation method and the timing of ventilation relative to water application.

Fire Attack Utilizing Acquired Structures

“It’s very important for us to be able to have fire service partners that allow us to do these experiments outside of the lab. Without their support, we would not be able to get these structures and conduct this research. We could not do this on our own.”

- Steve Kerber, Vice President, Research and Director, FSRI

FSRI works with Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services (Cobb County, GA) to conduct thirteen experiments across four, 10-unit garden-style apartment buildings. This series evaluates variables including the position of initial application of water, the ventilation method and whether the ventilation was performed prior to or after water was appalled to the fire compartment. 

Fire crews Watch training demonstration

The team returns to Ohio to partner with the Fairborn Fire Department (Fairborn, OH) to conduct the strip mall experiments. In a 12-unit shipping plaza, seven experiments are conducted with a focus on exploring the impact of ventilation (horizontal and vertical) on the fire dynamics of large, open volume commercial structures. 

Research Site

This research also includes collaboration with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) to acquire data on the potential impact of fire conditions on firefighters and civilians. IFSI contributes their expertise in porcine skin models and moisture measurement techniques (previously used in the 2013 DHS AFG funded Fire Attack Study) to simulate potential human exposure to elevated temperatures.

Technical Panel

Study of Coordinated Fire Attack Utilizing Acquired Structures Partial Technical Panel
Partial group photo of project technical panel from Fairborn, OH during strip mall experiments.


  • Christopher Byrne, Colorado Springs Fire Department
  • Tony Carroll, District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department
  • Chad Christensen, Los Angeles County Fire Department
  • Shea Chwialkowski, Richfield Fire Department
  • Danny Doyle, Pittsburgh Fire Department
  • Brad French, Dayton Fire Department
  • Russell Gardner, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department
  • Scott Gray, Seattle Fire Department
  • David Guercio, Baltimore City Fire Department
  • Greg Hubbard, Orange County Fire Rescue
  • Curt Isakson, Escambia County Fire Rescue
  • Cody Johnson, Homer Volunteer Fire Department
  • Frank Leeb, Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY)
  • Dennis LeGear, Oakland Fire Department
  • Stephan Lopez, Dallas Fire-Rescue
  • Ray McCormack, Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY)
  • James Mendoza, San Jose Fire Department
  • Nicholas Papa, City of New Britain Fire Department
  • Joe Pronesti, Elyria Fire Department
  • Richard Riley, Kentland Volunteer Fire Department
  • Andrew Ruiz, Los Angeles Fire Department
  • Terrence Sheppard, Chicago Fire Department
  • Eric Staggs, City of Spokane Fire Department
  • Chris Stewart, Phoenix Fire Department

Research Partners


Single-Family Homes Experiments 

The effectiveness of suppression actions in extinguishing the fire were dependent on the ability of those actions to 1) cool surfaces in the fire room and 2) wet unburned fuel. Exterior suppression actions on second-floor bedroom fires resulted in a decrease in temperatures throughout the second floor, followed by regrowth prior to final suppression through interior streams. When exterior suppression was performed on first-floor kitchen fires, where more complete fuel wetting was possible, regrowth was not observed prior to interior suppression. When surface cooling or fuel wetting are not possible due to the elevation of the fire room, missing ceiling, or obstacles, firefighters should consider alternative means of water distribution to improve the effectiveness of suppression actions from outside the fire room.

Suppression actions, whether interior or exterior, generally resulted in a decrease in temperatures and gas concentrations at locations where occupants may potentially be located. Conditions improved most quickly at locations closest in proximity to the inlet of the flow path established between the front door and the fire room. For this reason, opening an exterior door to gain access should be thought of as an important ventilation action, both in terms of its potential to cause fire growth and its potential to improve conditions for potentially trapped occupants. After effective suppression, structure ventilation operations should similarly be cognizant of gas flows, with the aim of establishing flow throughout all areas where occupants may be located.

Researcher's Top Picks


Multi-family Dwellings Experiments

Similar to the experiments conducted in acquired single-family structures, there was no meaningful increase in temperature outside of fire rooms when ventilation tactics were executed in close coordination with (shortly after or shortly before) the onset of suppression. In contrast, for experiments where ventilation occurred with delayed suppression, temperature exposures increased throughout the fire apartment, and in experiments where the apartment door was left open, temperatures and carbon monoxide exposures increased throughout the common stairwell.

The enclosed common stairwell, a unique feature of this experimental series, acted as capture of combustion products. Opening the apartment door to gain access should be thought of as an important ventilation action, both in terms of its potential to cause fire growth and its potential for smoke movement into the stairwell, limiting the egress for potentially trapped occupants in exposure units. Tactics such as door control, positive pressure ventilation, and hydraulic ventilation which were used both simultaneously with and sequentially post-suppression were shown to limit gas flows into the stairwell.

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Strip Mall Experiments

The volume of the strip mall units were larger than a typical residential compartment. A representative fuel load was chosen sufficient to generate ventilation-limited conditions within the unit. As a result, providing ventilation (via horizontal or vertical methods) without suppression resulted in an increase in the heat release rate of the fire and a corresponding rise in temperature. When suppression was conducted simultaneously with horizontal and vertical ventilation, there were no measured increases in unit temperature or pressure during suppression. While some elements of these experiments (e.g. unit volume and wind) resulted in increased variability, the lessons learned highlighted the importance of having a systematic approach to the implementation of tactics. These results were consistent with concurrent research in single-family home fires.

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For questions about this project, please contact:

Published: January 18, 2022