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Tests to Better Understand Fire Propagation in Tunnels

Tests to Better Understand Fire Propagation in TunnelsIn recent years a number of road tunnels fires have occurred throughout Europe with catastrophic outcome. Among these are the fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel with 39 victims (1999), the Tauern tunnel in Austria with 12 casualties (1999) and the St.Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland with 11 (2001). In these fires, the semi-trailer cargo played a major role in the outcome. The main reason being that the trailers contain a very high fire load and the fire could easily spread with aid of the ventilation. The rescue services also had great difficulty in reaching the fire. These recent tunnel fires have prompted the European Union (EU) to fund both a tunnel network (FIT - Fires in Tunnels) and large research projects dealing with the question of methods to upgrade the fire safety in tunnels (UPTUN - Cost-effective, sustainable and innovative UPgrading methods for fire safety in existing TUNnels and DARTS -Durable and Reliable Tunnel Structures). Read E-News Weekly 39/2003, 54/2002 & 39/2002. Visit www.etnfit.net, www.uptun.net and www.dartsproject.netIn the frame of Swedish national and European research programmes on tunnel safety, comprehensive large scale fire tests will be conducted during September 2003 in the abandoned Runehamar road tunnel in the southwest of Norway. The Swedish National Testing and Research Institute (SP) will carry out the tests in collaboration with UPTUN partners' TNO in the Netherlands and SINTEF/NBL in Norway. Associated partners from USA are the Port Authority in New York, the National Association of State Fire Marshalls in USA (NASFM) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Visit www.sp.se/fire/Eng/Protection/Runehamar_tests.htm, www.tno.nl and www.sintef.noThe test programme is divided in laboratory tests and large-scale tests. The laboratory tests have been run in SP's fire hall and the large-scale tunnel tests will be carried out with semitrailer cargos in the Runehamar tunnel in Norway. The Runehamar tunnel lies about 5 km from Åndalsnes, 40 km south of Molde. Molde lies on the Norwegian west coast, about 400 km from Oslo. The tunnel is a two-way asphalted road tunnel that was taken out of use about ten years ago. It is 1,650 m-long, 6 m-high and 9 m-wide, with a slope varying between 1-3%. The tunnel's unique location, together with its good condition, length and accessibility present one of the few places in the world where such experiments would be feasible. The tunnel is owned by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.The purpose of the fire tests is to measure the rate of growth of various types of semi-trailer cargos and to investigate the heat exposure to the tunnel linings. The purpose is also to obtain information to assist a new approach to fighting fires in tunnels. The information will be used to develop design scenarios for road tunnels and guidelines for protection of such tunnels. Especially semi-trailer fires similar to the size of the fires in the Mont Blanc tunnel in France and Italy and the St Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland will be considered. The proposed experiments are unique in that no detailed data investigating catastrophic tunnel fires have previously been collected. The aim of the project is to obtain new knowledge about fire development and fire spread in semi-trailer cargos and the heat exposure to the tunnel linings in the vicinity of the fire. There is a lack of systematic studies of the fire behaviour of semi-trailer cargos.The major financial support comes from the Swedish Rescue Service Agency, the Swedish Road Administration, the Swedish Rail Administration, the Swedish Fire Research Board and from the European Commission through the UPTUN project. Promat International in Belgium and Gerco Beveiligingen in the Netherlands sponsor the passive fire protection of the tunnel. The mobile ventilation fan system is sponsored by BIG Brandschutz Innovationen in Germany. Visit www.promat-tunnel.com, www.gerco.com and www.big-tempest.de. Read also E-News Weekly 33/2003, 14/2003 & 11/2003.The results of these tests will be presented, together with papers concerning modern tunnel fire safety, at a symposium to be held in Borås, Sweden from 20th to 21st November, 2003. The symposium will provide a unique opportunity to hear the latest information on the thermal output and smoke development from burning cargos in trucks, and on the resulting effects on the tunnel structure. There should also be information on how longitudinal ventilation through the tunnel affects the intensity of the fire, and on the risks of fire spreading from one vehicle to another. Visit www.sp.se/fire/Eng/Conferences/Tunnelkonferens.htm and e-mail Ida Larsson ida.larsson@sp.se 39/03.