Reuters, FDNY and FireRescue1 Staff
NEW YORK — The Fire Department of New York and a team of scientists are setting buildings on fire to investigate new methods of fighting blazes fueled by modern materials.
The nature and ferocity of building fires have changed over the years so, in their outdoor laboratory, the firefighters are looking at new tactics and technology in order to adapt and save lives.
National Institute of Standards and Technology and Underwriters Laboratories joined FDNY on Governors Island for six days starting July 2, according to FDNY, filling 20 vacant row houses with old plastic furniture from hotels and setting them on fire.
"We're hoping to gain a small advantage on how we fight fires, which will, with hope, protect the safety of our firefighters and the public," Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.
More furniture is made with plastic-based materials, which burn much faster than older materials, suck oxygen out of a room more quickly and make evacuation more difficult.
The plastic-based filling found in couches, chairs and beds can eliminate the oxygen in a room before the flammable materials, according to the New York Times. They appear to be extinguished but can start up again at the first hint of fresh air, often when firefighters cut through roofs and break windows.
The FDNY is considering not rushing into smoky buildings before hosing it down, a reversal of current protocol, the Times said.
The final research won't be released for some time, but tests are already providing some information. One test began with a fire in a townhouse cellar and tested everything from ventilation tactics to suppression. Fire officers and researchers stood in another nearby structure to monitor and analyze initial data.
"We're addressing challenges firefighters face every day," UL Engineer John Drengenberg said. "We’re bringing science to the street."
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