Despite advancements in the development of synthetic fibers and materials that provide better insulation, fire ground burn injuries remain a significant issue. The current test methods for fire fighting clothing were investigated to determine their adequacy in evaluating the actual performance of clothing materials. This investigation uncovered several potential problems with the current test methods. A series of new, small scale, tests were used to evaluate the shortcomings of the current test methods and develop possible improvements. A small test apparatus, designed and donated by Ktech Corporation, was used to measure the thermal properties (thermal conductivity and volumetric heat capacity) of a series of fire fighting clothing materials. The thermal properties were estimated for single fabric layers, as well as ensembles, with various levels of moisture added to simulate actual end use conditions. In addition, a skin simulant sensor was used to assess the time to 2nd degree burn for exposures similar to those required in current standards for fire fighting clothing. A one dimensional heat conduction model was developed to predict the time to 2nd degree burn for the skin simulant sensor protected with outer shell materials that may be used as wildland fire fighting clothing, using the thermal property data obtained from earlier tests. An alternative method was developed to calculate the time to 2nd degree burn for ensembles evaluated with the new skin simulant sensor. The predictions for the time to 2nd degree burn obtained from the new skin simulant sensor were compared against results obtained using the sensor specified in the current test methods. The predictions for the skin simulant sensor were consistently shorter than those from the current test sensor. The current test sensor predictions for the time to 2nd degree burn were nominally 40% to 50% higher than the predictions from the skin simulant sensor during the evaluations of outer shell materials.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Fire Protection Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





fire fighting clothing, skin simulant sensor, heat conduction model, Fire fighters, Equipment and supplies, Testing, Protective clothing, Fire testing, Fire fighting equipment