I mentioned in a previous post that fire does not burn any differently than it ever has. This statement is based on the fact that fire is a science. With that being said, I’m about to emphasize that fires do burn differently today than they have in the past. This statement is based on the fact that the built environment has changed, thus impacting the fire dynamics we are now facing. Notice the significant difference the placement of the letter “s” in fires has on the meaning of the two, italicized statements.
The evolution of the built environment includes the increasingly common use of lightweight, low-mass, engineered wood structural components; petroleum-based fuel loads; and, open floor plans. The evolution of these three aspects of the built environment has combined to form the perfect storm of fire dynamics impacting both occupants and firefighters.
Changes in modern structural components stem from architects and engineers attempting and succeeding at increasing the load-carrying capacity and cost-efficiency related to those components.
For additional insight on this topic from NFPA blogger Rick Ennis, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog.