Current methodologies of origin investigation have yet to include the structural deformations seen in steel buildings as a viable indicator of the area of origin of a given fire. As many steel structures are of relatively large size, it is often difficult to determine the area of origin using the typical dig and sift methods advocated in NFPA 921, especially if the extent of the fire was large and there were no witnesses as to the origin of the fire. As has been investigated for years, the performance of steel is highly affected by the application of heat. The science of predicting the deformations of steel members is such that an investigator may be able to “reverse engineer” the fire to get an idea of its relative growth rate and length of combustion even if it is not possible to compute a heat release rate curve. The information derived from careful analysis of the deformations may also yield valuable input for use in computer fire modeling. Using several example cases, this paper explores the methodology that can be applied in order to use the structural deformations as a viable tool to determine the point of origin of large, single story steel framed structures.
Tinsley, Andrew T. and Icove, David J., "An Assessment of the Use of Structural Deformation as a Method of Determining Area of Fire Origin" (2008). Safety, Security and Emergency Management Faculty and Staff Scholarship. 7.