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Principles of Fire Behavior and Combustion Book Review

Principles of Fire Behavior and Combustion Book Review

By Scott Rockwell Ph.D.

The fourth edition of Principles of Fire Behavior and Combustion by Gann and Friedman fills a niche in the fire safety education market striking a nice balance of qualitative explanations with qualitative calculations. It is good as an introductory book, avoiding long derivations of mathematical concepts and fits somewhere between heavily theory-based textbooks such as An Introduction to Fire Dynamics by Drysdale or Fundamentals of Fire Phenomena by Quintiere and the purely conceptual books like Fundamentals of Fire Protection by Cote. The Principles of Fire Behavior and Combustion has a good variety of mathematical equations for calculations while still focusing mainly on understanding the fundamental concepts. There is a thorough introduction which shows the applicability of the information in the book to the real world, and this theme continues throughout the rest of the text where the authors show the usefulness of the information presented towards real world applications. The text is user friendly with relevant terms highlighted and well defined in both the text and the glossary and there is an appendix in the back of the book which helps when finding reference material.

This book meets the requirements for the associates level Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) model for Fire Behavior and Combustion. If the book is to be used as an instructional textbook for classes, there are basic conceptual questions at the end of the chapters to check understanding. There is also the option to purchase an Instructor ToolKit CD, which professors may use to assist in creating classes covering the material. The equations are numbered for easy reference, but there are no example problems showing how they are used, which might make understanding the concepts easier for a reader. The book is organized in a logical sequence which will be helpful for potential readers to understand materials though it isn't until Chapter 6 that the text focuses in on fire itself. The authors did a good job of referencing research based material, such as equations at the end of each chapter, though many of the references are other books rather than the original peer-reviewed journal papers where the research was initially published.

Radiation is an important concept for basic fire students to understand and is covered in the Heat Transfer chapter. In this chapter, equations to calculate the time to burn, to feel pain, and to become incapacitated are included which is quite interesting and shows the applicability of learning basic radiation theory. Equation 5- 6 shows the calculation for radiation based on a temperature, but this calculation is difficult to use in a fire situation unless temperatures are provided that can be used for flames such as those listed in Industrial Fire Protection Engineering by Zalosh. Students may find it easier to understand the basic radiant heat transfer equations from a fire, such as the Shokri and Beyler empirical correlation or the point source model.

This book has quite a good discussion on smoke in the Combustion Products, Smoke and Heat Hazards, and Movement of Fire Gases chapters including visibility distances through smoke and toxicity effects though it does not make mention of how much smoke is generated by a typical fire which might be useful in some situations. The modeling chapter does a good job of describing zone and field fire models and the associated limitations which I believe is very important, but the chapter does not touch on spread sheet modeling, human movement, or explosion types of models which I believe are also relevant to the discussion. The explosion types of models are relevant because CFAST and FDS, which are the models described, cannot simulate a backdraft based on the assumptions currently built into these tools. Also, the book does not describe how to calculate the heat release rate of a fire based on the fuel and surface area or using t2 growth rate curves. These concepts are not specified explicitly in the FESHE guidelines, but one might argue that calculating heat release rates falls under outcome 4 "apply the process of burning" or 5 "using basic concepts associated with dynamics of fire." Overall, a very enjoyable, well laid out textbook with good pictures and diagrams. Readers should learn a great deal about basic fire science and how it applies to the world at large.

Scott Rockwell, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Fire Protection and Paramedicine Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University.