Fire Severity and Response Distance

Initial Findings

by Edward Ignall, Kenneth Lloyd Rider, Richard Urbach

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Studies the relationship between physical damage from fires and the distance traveled by the first-arriving fire company, using data from 115,000 structural fires in New York City between 1968 and 1970. It was found that the estimated fraction of fires that were serious (where more than 15 percent of building contents were destroyed) at the moment of dispatch ranged from 3-7 percent. This fraction was typically 10 percent smaller for alarms reported by telephone than for those reported from alarm boxes, for comparable occupancies at the same time of day. For commercial buildings, the estimated fraction serious at dispatch was also smaller during the day than in the evening, again by about 10 percent. The estimated fraction serious when fire companies arrived increased with response distance in nine out of 10 cases examined. In nonfireproof and frame structures, the fraction serious at fire company arrival typically increased by about 5 percent for each one mile in response distance.

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