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Development of CFAST Based Fire Simulation Toolkit for Fire Investigators

NCJ Number
Marc L. Janssens, Ph.D., FSFPE
Date Published
51 pages

This is the Final Research Report for a project with the primary goal of making compartment-fire modeling more accessible to fire investigators by developing a fire investigator-friendly electronic fire simulation toolkit based on the computer zone fire model CFAST and by facilitating its use in support of fire origin and cause determination through the development of a short course.


The electronic toolkit consists of two databases and a pre- and post-processor. The first database is a collection of CFAST input data for just over 200 combustible items. The second database contains thermal property data for interior surface materials and various target materials. The pre-processor facilitates the creation of CFAST input files for a base case and variations in which one or several input parameters are changed from the base case. Post-processing involves the calculation of specific quantities of interest to the fire investigator and a comparison of output data from various runs. Materials were developed for a short course that trains fire investigators in the use of CFAST. They consist of two PowerPoint presentations, an instructor’s manual, and CFAST input files for six case studies. Three studies were conducted to quantify errors in the CFAST predictions that are a result of the assumption that surface materials have constant thermal properties and consist of a single layer backed by an air gap. A fourth study was conducted to examine the effect of variations in density and composition of gypsum board on calcinations depth for a given thermal exposure. 9 tables, 8 figures, and 82 references