Published on December 29, 2014.

BEGINNING IN JANUARY, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) will begin a series of full-scale experiments on its campus near Chicago to learn more about the dynamics of what’s known as “positive pressure ventilation,” a technique that uses large fans to blow smoke and heat out of a burning building.

The latest project, called “Study of the Effectiveness of Fire Service Positive Pressure Ventilation during Fire Attack in Single Family Homes Incorporating Modern Construction Practices,” is a continuation of the research UL has been conducting with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to increase firefighter safety through scientific study of fire dynamics. The full study will take place over three years.

The positive pressure ventilation tactic, developed in the 1980s, uses fans aimed at the front door of a burning structure to blow smoke and heat out of the building, usually through an opening such as a window or a hole in the roof. Researchers hope to learn more about where gases travel and how the fire reacts under various conditions using the tactic.

“We’ve seen successes and failures in how fire departments use this tactic,” says Stephen Kerber, director of UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute. “It’s an example of a technology that was introduced into the fire service without proper understanding of the benefits and limitations of using it.”

As it has done in previous years for experiments on horizontal and vertical ventilation, UL has built a 3,200-square-foot colonial-style house, along with a 1,200-square-foot ranch house, to burn in its Large Fire Laboratory building. UL has invited members of the fire service to watch the 23 full-scale experiments, which will conclude February 5.

Visit the research's website for more on the testing, and for information on attending.