Scots team's fire fighting technology to save lives

New technology that could help save lives by predicting how a fire will spread has been developed by Scottish scientists.

The new technique is able to feed data taken from sensors located in burning buildings into computer models to allow rescue services to predict how the blaze will progress.

The invention could also save firefighters valuable time by giving several minutes of warning on how a fire will develop, helping them to contain the blaze and minimise its impact.

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This technology, known as sensor assisted fire fighting, has been developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Guillermo Rein of the university's school of engineering, who supervised the study, said: "Firefighters often have to follow their instincts when tackling a fire.

"This technology could give them the extra information they need to consider in handling the emergency, and reduce lost opportunities or unnecessary risks, ultimately saving lives and minimising damage.

"However, further research focusing on making the simulation as realistic as possible will be needed before this technology can be put into practice."

The technology uses simple sensors - incorporated into smoke alarms, room temperature sensors or CCTV cameras - which can measure the temperature and height of a blaze.

Sophisticated computer models can then convert these into a forecast of the fire's dynamics.

Sensor assisted fire fighting allows real-time observation of a fire, with the forecast being constantly updated using information from the sensors.

"In the event of a significant change in conditions, such as a window breaking, sensor measurements enable the model to adapt the forecast".

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The research, published in Fire Safety Journal, was partially funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board and the EU.