Volume 23 Issue 1, 2008

Are house fires changing?

Chris Lewis

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


NSWFB Fire Investigation and Research Unit continually undertake case study analyses of significant house fires. This analysis and recent statistical analysis of fire services response data indicate that the effectiveness of containing a fire to the object or room of origin has deteriorated slightly over the last five years. This domestic research resonates with fire research from other countries showing a possible increase in speed and ferocity of experimental domestic fires. Furthermore, this is supported by a survey of the perceptions of operational firefighters within the NSW Fire Brigades. If confirmed, this emergent trend in domestic fires will present an ever increasing risk to the life safety of both building occupants and firefighters. To test this hypothesis NSW Fire Brigades has entered into a collaborative project with CSIRO to research changes in the residential environment in Class 1a dwellings (houses), looking in particular at changes over the last three decades that may affect life safety outcomes for residents and firefighters exposed to residential fires. This article will outline the findings and outcomes of stage one of this research and briefly discuss the implications of applied research in gathering evidence for the design, implementation and evaluation of strategic fire prevention policy.