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    Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 3 November 2009 Referencing Hub media

    In this video clip, Associate Professor Charley Fleischmann from the University of Canterbury, explains what burns in structural fires are and what makes them so dangerous.

    Points of interest

    • What makes structural fires dangerous?
    • How are structural fires different from outdoor fires?


    Typically we talk about a structure being a building in terms of a house on up to a multi-storey, you know, even the Sky Tower is a structure. It’s not typically the structure itself that’s the problem, but it’s the things we bring into it – the furnishings, the contents, anything that you bring into a building, the furniture, the things we put on the walls, the chairs that we sit on, the carpets we put on the floor, what we line our walls with. Normally, those are all combustible materials, and that’s generally what burns in the early stages and causes the problem.

    The other thing with the structure is that, if you look at it, it’s almost like a large version of a log fire, in that you close it up inside a box, and that heat is somewhat contained. Because that heat is contained, it comes back on the fuel and makes things burn faster. You get what we refer to as feedback to the fuel, and it makes it burn faster. Structural fires are usually much more dangerous than outside fires, and that’s primarily due because the structure contains the heat.

    New Zealand Fire Service