Plenary keynote

Numerical forecasting of fire dynamics: Tomorrow's infrastructure protection
Dr Guillermo Rein School of Engineering University of Edinburgh
Based on the PhD thesis of W Jahn

Seeing the Future

The Tides of Aveiro, Portugal

This is the 48 h tide forecast for the 26th and 27th of March 2012 in Aveiro produced on the 25th This accurate forecasts allow local finishing vessels to program their route and operations ahead of time.

2011 Icelandic ash cloud

May 22nd 2011 forecast made on May 21st

Forecasting Fire Dynamics

Paradigm shift in Emergency Response
Knowledge of future fire conditions – spread, smoke, structural collapse Additional layer of essential information to the Fire Service currently non existing Technology for Smart Buildings First adopters of technology expected in critical infrastructure and high profile buildings Predictions need to arrive faster than the event develops (lead time>0)
Lead time: period after the forecast when it is still accurate and valid

Fire Test at BRE commissioned by Arup 2009 4x4x2.4m – small premise in shopping mall

190s – could this be forecasted ahead of time?

285s – could this be forecasted ahead of time?

316s – could this be forecasted ahead of time?

Coupled Fire Mechanisms
SOLID PHASE - fuel Heat conduction Pyrolysis/degradation Flame Spread GAS PHASE – flame/smoke Turbulence Combustion Radiation Buoyancy

Fire dynamics are governed by coupled non-linear processes.
NOTE: Combustion is only one of the many important mechanisms in fire dynamics (typical misconception)

Firepower – Fuel
Heat release rate (HRR) is the power of the fire (energy release per unit time)

& & & Q (t ) = ∆hc m(t ) = ∆hc m ′′A(t )

& Q Heat Release Rate (kW) - evolves with time ∆hc Heat of combustion (kJ/kg-fuel) ~ fuel property & m Burning rate (kg/s) - evolves with time & m′′ Burning rate per unit area (m2) ~ fuel property A
Burning area (m2) - evolves with time

Burning rate (per unit area)

from Quintiere, Principles of Fire Behaviour

& q ′′ & m ′′ = ∆hp

Heat of Combustion

from Introduction to fire Dynamics, Drysdale, Wiley

Lower order modelling: Two-Zone Model
(after Zukoski, 1978)
1D in space and transient in time. Simple model formulated on the fact that the volume of a fire compartment is naturally split in two layers, hot smoke up and cold air down. Smoke layers starts t the ceiling level and descends towards the floor. Mass transfer between both layers is by the fire plume. Mass balance upper layer

Upper layer Plume Lower layer
Leak Firepower growth

Mass balance lower layer

Flow rate of smoke in plume

Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Higher order model: Computational Fluid Dynamics
3D in space and transient in time State of the art is FDS - Fire Dynamics Simulator:
LES code Mixture fraction Radiation Solid heating

Open source, freely available Developed by NIST (USA) Computational time of a ~10 min fire in a typical single office compartment takes in the order of weeks to solve in a modern desktop PC. The most successful fire CFD code currently in use

Impossible and HPC
Two most common responses we got from experts when we first started to research the topic: 1. “That is Impossible, you are wasting your time” (note to Young Researchers: this reaction
indicated you are doing something right)

2. “No need to research, just take the best CFD model in town and run it as fast as possible using parallel computing, grid and HPC”

Round-Robin of Fire Modelling
How accurate is the state-of-the-art? International pool of experts provided a priori (blind) predictions of a largescale fire experiment, 2006 Dalmarnock

Rein et al., Fire Safety Journal 44, 2009

High Density Instrumentation
Deflection Gauges 8 Lasers

20 Heat Flux Gauges

10 Smoke Detectors






14 Velocity Probes CCTV

270 Thermocouple
Abecassis-Empis et al., Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 32, 2008.


Average Compartment Temperature

Abecassis-Empis et al., Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 32, 2008

Predictions of Firepower

Rein et al., Fire Safety Journal 44, 2009

Predictions of smoke layer temperature

Predictions of smoke layer position

Round-Robin Lessons
The state-of-the-art of fire modelling is neither accurate nor fast enough for forecasting Brute force forecasting provides excessive uncertainty Firepower growth Q is an essential variable, all others derive from it

Rein et al., Fire Safety Journal 44, 2009

Data Assimilation
used in weather forecast




ANALYSIS Forecasts (with positive lead time)

Forecast of average temperature • Current lead time is 3 days • 10 years ago was 2 days

Cowlard et al., Fire Technology, 2011

Inverse Modelling
Steps in Data Assimilation: Identify the governing parameters – the invariants Quantify via sensor data the value of the invariants Run forecast with those parameters
Weather: quantify initial conditions (IVP) Climate: quantify boundary conditions (BVP) Fire: none of the above The source term, firepower, drives fire dynamics. Q must be estimate first

Inverse modelling is like imitating Sherlock Holmes

Data Assimilation Concept

Invariant values valid


New invariant values

Sudden change of conditions (eg, window breakage)

sensor model

Cowlard et al., Fire Technology, 2011

Source term - Invariants
It is a common observation that fires grow as t2 (radial spread at ~ constant rate)
α growth parameter ~ constant

& (t ) = π∆h m ′′S 2t 2 = αt 2 Q c &
heat of combustion burning rate spread rate

Invariant (α) is the governing unknown of the α problem Other invariants related to ventilation, smoke, etc can be added as well

Inverse Modelling
Forward fire model is A cost function is minimized:

which measures the distance between the observation yi and the output of the forward model yi(α).

α*= argmin(J(α)) = the invariant values sought

Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Minimization Technique
For a handful of invariants, gradient techniques are much faster than heuristics Non-linear (NL) gradient technique typically needs >100 iterations Because each iteration requires to run the fire model at least once fi NL is not as practical for forecasting Solution: linearize Finding: yi(α) tends to be reasonably linear in compartment fires

Tangent Linear Model (TLM)
Linearizing around guess α0 and replacing into cost function, gradient becomes

Leads to a linear system

Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Zone Model - Typical Fire Scenario
Compartment 4 x 5 x 2.5 m Mattress fire Sensors: Temperature, ~uniform grid 10 per m3 Synthetic data generated by CFD model (FDS) Invariants: spread rate, entrainment & transport time
This is not the most realistic scenario, specially the high density sensor array. But first attempts ought to be conducted on simple cases before moving towards complex cases

Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Medium fire (~mattress fire)
Assimilate 5 Data points
Temperature (C)

9 Data points

13 Data points

Upper layer Plume Lower layer

HRR (kW)
Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Layer Height (m)

Medium fire (~mattress fire)

Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Lead time (s)

Slow fire
(ie, large wood slab)

Medium fire
(ie, large mattress)

Lead time (s)

Fast fire
(ie, large polyurethane foam slab)
Jahn et al., Fire Safety Journal, 2011

Lead Time defined as forecast <10% error in upper layer temperature

Lead time (s)

CFD forecast
Same compartment (4 x 5 x 2.5 m, mattress fire) Forward model is LES code FDSv5 Invariants: spread rate, fuel flow (=burning rate) and soot yield Sensors: Temperature and smoke at ceiling height Synthetic data by fine grid FDS (5 cm) Speed up by coarse grid (25 cm)§
NOTE: Course grids cannot resolve turbulence and other flow process of importance. But forecasting ought to find a compromise between speed and accuracy. Note that in many weather simulations, for example, Scotland is one single grid cell

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

CFD forecast

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012


Comparison of Tangent Linear Method (TLM) and the quasiNewton method Broyden– Fletcher–Goldfarb–Shanno (BLGF) shows superior performance of the TLM, both in accuracy and in computation time for the problem at hand

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

Two independent fires

Good convergence!

Effect of sensor type - Assimilation iter.
Using ceiling temperature sensors only Adding ceiling smoke sensor

Poor convergence!

Good convergence!

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

Unknown location and size of fuel source

Near realtime with CFD forecast
Our CFD forecast do not reach positive lead times yet (current is ~ -4.5 min) because CFD is still too slow compared to real time event. Our works has focused on minimizing the number of iterations for convergence of invariant because:
Each iteration involves a number of parallel CFD runs. A typical CFD run in FDS of a 5 min fire in a single office compartment with a modern PC desktop takes weeks to solve with a grid of 5 cm. With a course grid of 25 cm, it takes 10 min.

High Performance Computing techniques can now accelerate further the inverse problem and reach real time CFD forecast (positive lead times)

Next challenge: CFD forecast using sensor data from a real fire
Data from Dalmarnock Fire Test One High density sensor array for temperature Forward model is FDSv5

CFD forecast of real fire

Rack 1 230 cm high – near sofa

Rack 1 160 cm high – near sofa

Rack 19 230 cm high – near window

Rack 19 160 cm high – near window

Jahn et al., IAFSS, 2011

Results show local sensor data can be used to forecast the firepower in the whole compartment

Sensor data from temperature and smoke field used to back calculate the fire growth Methodology is general and independent of the forward model Fundamental step towards the development of forecasting technologies Invariants accurately estimated in <1 min of fire time Positive lead times with zone model (~90 s) Near realtime CFD forecast (~-4.5 min) Coarse grids accelerate forecast up to 100 times without loss of accuracy due to the assimilation of sensor data High Performance Computing techniques can now accelerate further the inverse problem and reach real time CFD forecast (positive lead times)

New perspective
"So easy it seemed, Once found, which yet unfounded most would have thought, Impossible!"
John Milton (1608 - 1674), English poet

Villemard, 1910, National Library of France

Jahn et al, Adv Software Eng, 2012 Jahn et al, IAFSS, 2011 Jahn et al, Fire Safety Journal, 2011 Cowlard et al, Fire Technology, 2011

Paleofuture: forecast made in 1900 of the firefighting in the year 2000
Based on the thesis of my PhD student Wolfram Jah Inverse modelling to forecast enclosure fire dynamics University of Edinburgh, 2010. is in open access at Research funded by BRE, EU Alban Scholarship and FireGrid

Three Invariants
Different initial guesses

Good convergence!

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

All three invariants converge. Soot the slowest

Effect of sensor density
9 sensors

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

Improvement with CFD assimilation window

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

General Forecasting Method

Jahn et al., Adv Software Eng, 2012

Flame Spread vs. Angle

downward vertical spread

upward vertical spread

Upward spread up to 20 times faster than downward spread
Test conducted by Aled Beswick BEng 2009

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful