Live Burn By Scott E. Dillon, P.E.


Crane Engineering recently sponsored a unique live burn program as part of the 2018 DRI Fire Science and Litigation seminar held in Washington, DC on September 12, 2018. For this year’s event, DRI decided to do something a little different from years past - four vendors working in the area of fire investigation sponsored, developed and led a live fire training program on the day prior to the biennial DRI seminar. Crane Engineering was one of the four vendors that sponsored and participated in the program.


The live fire program was put on at the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute (MFRI), which is located near Washington, DC in College Park, Maryland and is part of the University of Maryland. Attendees included attorneys, insurance representatives, fire investigators and engineers.  The goal of the program was to provide attendees with hands-on experience related to several aspects of fire investigation. Attendees were divided into groups of two to three and participated in several learning stations including:

  • Investigation of four fire scenes – two identical bedrooms (with different fire causes), a kitchen and a living room

  • Fire debris sifting and evidence collection

  • 3D laser scanning and virtual reality demonstration

  • Computer fire modeling demonstration

  • Spontaneous combustion demonstration

The finale of the program was a live flashover demonstration where attendees were given the opportunity to see and feel the heat from a room fire transitioning to flashover.

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In a real investigation, investigators and attorneys rarely get a chance to see what the scene looked like immediately prior to the fire or during fire growth. Consumption of materials and destruction of the evidence due to the fire and fire-fighting activities may inhibit their understanding of the scene. Therefore, to kick off the Fire Science and Litigation seminar the next day, experts from each of the four vendors presented the vital aspects of each fire scenario, including the flashover demonstration. Scott Dillon, Fire Science Manager and Fire Protection Engineer with Crane Engineering, participated in the preparation and execution of the live burn program as well as the presentation at the seminar. The detailed layout of the rooms was described and contrasted with the post-fire scene. The dynamics of a fire inside a compartment were then illustrated through live videos of the room fires with commentary and explanation from the experts. The data compiled from these room fires was enhanced through application of fire modeling and temperature data measured during each fire.

Fire modeling of flashover cell

Fire modeling of flashover cell

The event was well received by the attendees and feedback for the event was extremely positive. Several attendees were amazed at the intensity of the radiant heat from the fire in the flashover demonstration felt from over 40 feet away.

Contact Scott Dillon if you are interested in hearing more about the Live Burn.