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Research on Electrical Fires: The State of the Art

Babrauskas, V., 2008. Research on Electrical Fires: The State of the Art. Fire Safety Science 9: 3-18. doi:10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.9-3


Electrical fires—fires directly caused by the flow of electric current or by static electricity—are one of the important types of structure fires. The subsequent development of an electrical fire is generally no different than that of any other type of structural fire. But the mechanisms leading to ignition of an electrical fire are, in many cases, uniquely specialized and in need of specific research to delineate their characteristics. Despite the importance of electrical fires, there has not been any institution in the English-speaking world with a long-term commitment to research in this area. Worldwide, the situation has been much better, due to extensive research in Japan. But most of this body of work was only published in the Japanese language and, consequently, had been unavailable to most scientists and engineers in English-language countries. The publication of the Ignition Handbook presented for the first time in English many of the salient Japanese research results in this field and these, taken together with the scattered studies that have been reported in English, allow a basic understanding of physical mechanisms to be reached. The present review presents the highlights of these findings. The review of the state of the art also shows that there are still a number of gaps where even first-cut research is not available. It is urged that a systematic research effort on electrical fires be established in the US and certain high-priority topics are outlined.

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