With the publishing of the third edition of this now classic fire protection engineering textbook, Drysdale does not change the style of the text, but he does refine and strengthen the content from the second edition. New sections have been added on spill fires and burning of pressurized and cryogenic liquids; auto-ignition of liquid fuels; fire in large compartments; and toxicity of smoke. The third edition is 100 pages longer than the second edition.
What has made this a classic text is that it balances breadth and depth in the extensive topic area of fire dynamics in a manner that is useful for both new students and experienced practitioners. I have found this balance to be quite effective in my own teaching of fire protection engineering students at the advanced under-graduate and introductory graduate level.
In terms of breadth, Drysdale covers background areas, such as fire science and combustion, heat transfer, limits of flammability, and premixed flames and diffusion flames. Next, he covers key fire dynamics phenomena, such as steady-burning of liquids and solids, ignition: the initiation of flaming combustion, spread of flames, and spontaneous ignition with solids and smoldering combustion. He concludes with the effects of these phenomena on life safety and property protection with topics on the pre-flashover compartment fire, the post-flashover compartment fire, and smoke: its formation, composition and movement.
In terms of depth, Drysdale provides clear and concise discussion of each topic. He makes effective use of tables, figures, photos, and equations. The level of detail presented is consistent with well-founded understanding in the fire protection engineering community. For less well-developed topics, this involves qualitative discussion, where the mechanisms are described using scaling methods. For well-developed topics, this involves detailing analytical tools that the practitioner can use for engineered analysis and design.
For students new to fire dynamics, the qualitative discussions provide a great introduction to the topics. The practical examples and homework problems with select answers provide an effective means to learn the proper use of analytical tools. For the experienced practitioner, these items provide a good reminder of topics and tools that may not have been used for a while. The extensive reference list provides a great initial start to developing source documents when a topic needs to be understood in greater detail.
Based on my many years of teaching fire dynamics at WPI using previous editions of this book, I would strongly recommend the third edition for use by instructors and their students, and as a learning or reference text for practitioners' personal libraries. Moving forward, the fire protection engineering community benefits from Drysdale's wisdom to refine and strengthen his textbook in what has been and will continue to be an insightful investigation and survey of this important topic area.
Nicholas A. Dembsey is with Worcester Polytechnic Institute.