Safety, Security, and Emergency Management

Document Type


Publication Date



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.


This article was originally published in the proceedings of the 2008 International Symposium of Fire Science Investigation and Technology.

Journal Title

ISFI Proceedings 2008



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.