Fire spread: car park case study

A fire’s origin isn’t the only element a fire loss adjuster analyses at the scene of an incident. In addition to identifying the cause, the damage survey recreates the precise conditions of the fire spread in order to ensure the damage observed is not the result of poor workmanship or inappropriate behaviours. This comprehensive investigation conducted by Julien d’Apremont, our Fire Causes and Circumstances Research (RCCI) loss adjuster, makes it possible to better identify liabilities and more quickly determine what actions to implement.


Recreating the scene of a fire

A fire damage survey begins by modelling what existed before the incident. This essential step requires precise examination of the premises and witness interviews in order to recreate what happened in this space before the fire occurred.

Using new technologies, such as drones, 3D scanners and 3D modelling, the loss adjuster is able to identify volumes, construction methods and layouts as accurately as possible. Next, they need to outline a coherent development scenario.

Many regulatory materials are also studied and compared to the work actually completed. These include technical documents, standards, building codes and any other legislation likely to define the fire safety requirements based on the building’s nature and age.


A case study: parking structure fire

A fire originated from a vehicle in a car park. The smoke from this fire blackened adjoining areas and damaged sensitive equipment. Once the cause of the incident was determined, the loss adjuster reflected on the reasons the smoke spread to the adjoining areas. The damage survey revealed an opening that connected the car park and the smoke-filled areas. An electrical cable tray ran through this opening and provided power to building service equipment. When a fire starts in a partially-confined area, it produces smoke under high pressure, which vents through air spaces and open doors. This toxic, corrosive and flammable smoke can poison victims, spread the fire or even damage service equipment by oxidising it.

In this particular case, article 82 of the amended French decree of 31 January 1986 required that the slab between the car park and residences be capable of withstanding a fire for a minimum of two hours. This means there should not have been any openings or air space between the two structures. Articles 46 and 88 of this same decree allows for combustible ducts to pass through the slab as long as their diameter is 125 mm or smaller and the clearance around these ducts is filled with incombustible materials covering the entire floor thickness.

In this case, the opening through which the electrical cables passed was not filled and left a gap in the required isolation. This was a clear compliance issue, so the company in charge of construction was liable.

Of course, identifying isolation defects is just one of the many analyses that a fire loss adjuster is able to do along with identifying the origin.



Julien DAPREMONT, Fire Causes and Circumstances Research Loss Adjuster

Find out more about his area of expertise