The Fire Protection Research Foundation bestows its top honors

August 16, 2021 – Each year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) presents awards that recognize outstanding achievements in fire and life safety. Two of those awards are the Harry C. Bigglestone Award and the Research Foundation Medal, given out by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Foundation), the research affiliate of NFPA.

Harry C. Bigglestone Award

The Harry C. Bigglestone Award is given annually in recognition of a paper that appeared in Fire Technology. The chosen contribution best represents excellence in the communication of fire protection concepts and honors Harry C. Bigglestone, who served as a trustee of the Foundation. Bigglestone was a fellow and past president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. The award is accompanied by a $5,000 cash prize from NFPA.

The 2021 Harry C. Bigglestone winning paper is 20 Dwelling Large-Scale Experiment of Fire Spread in Informal Settlements,” by Nico de Koker (PhD, BScEng, BSc), a computational physicist and structural engineer who works as an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University. The paper’s co-authors were R.S. Walls, A. Cicione, Z.R. Sander, S. Loffel, J.J. Claasen, S.J. Fourie, L. Croukamp (all from the Department of Civil Engineering, Stellenbosch University), and D. Rush (School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, U.K.). de Koker’s research interests broadly focus on the uncertainty quantification in engineering simulations, in particular applications in structural fire safety, fire spread modelling, reliability-based design, and stochastic inversion.

Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal

The Research Foundation Medal recognizes the project completed in the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation’s fire safety mission, technical challenges that have been overcome, and a collaborative approach to execution (the hallmark of all Foundation projects). An awards committee consisting of representatives from the Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and NFPA technical staff reviewed summaries of 18 eligible projects and conducted staff assessments of how they meet each of the criteria.

The project, Evaluation of the fire protection effectiveness of fluorine free firefighting foams has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Foundation Medal. This project addressed the need to inform end users about alternatives by evaluating the firefighting capabilities of fluorine free, Class B firefighting foams on fires involving hydrocarbon and alcohol fuels. More than 165 fire tests were conducted to determine foam application rates and foam discharge densities as a function of a range of test parameters, including discharge types, foam qualities and aspiration ratios, fuel types, water types, and fuel temperatures. Information on the proper application of fluorine free foams (FFFs) was lacking for the end users. In part, the study highlighted the importance of following the listed parameters while applying FFFs.

The Research Foundation Medal recognizes everyone that was involved in the project including the research team, the project sponsors (American Petroleum Institute, Angus International, Chevron USA Inc., Exxon Mobil, Johnson Controls, Marathon Petroleum, Philipps 66, Shell Oil Company), and the project technical panel.

The award will be presented to the research team, led by Gerard G. Back, senior fire protection engineer, Research & Development, Testing & Evaluation at Jensen Hughes (Md.), and John Farley, director of Fire Test Operations at the Naval Research Laboratory’s Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability (Va.). The research team will receive the award during the ‘Night of Stars’ event at the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo to be held in Boston.

For more information on Foundation research projects – past and present, visit

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

About the Fire Protection Research Foundation

The Fire Protection Research Foundation plans, manages, and communicates research on a broad range of fire safety issues in support of the NFPA mission. The Research Foundation is an affiliate of NFPA.

NFPA: 125 Years of Protecting People and Property

The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. The association began its work to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation in 1896 and has since become a global force known for advancing safety worldwide. NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 325 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. In celebration of its 125th Anniversary, NFPA will be hosting a Conference Series and other initiatives that reflect the association’s steadfast commitment to advancing fire and life safety for the next 125 years and beyond. For more information or to view NFPA codes and standards for free, visit

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