Professional Publications

Steve Carman has investigated and researched various aspects of fire science and fire investigation and presented his findings internationally. The following links can be used to view some of his published works.

Investigating Multi-Compartment Fire Behavior of Elevated Origins

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Since most fire fatalities involve exposures to combustion gases, there is emphasis amongst fire investigators to better understand ventilation-limited fires. Of that broad class of fires, elevated fires are particularly interesting. One of the most notable facets is the propensity of elevated fires to produce high concentrations of carbon monoxide capable of causing remote fatalities while generating levels of burn damage near the fire origin similar to fires of only moderate severity.

Impact of Ventilation in Fire Investigation

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A basic notion of fire investigation is that the origin of the fire must be correctly identified in order to determine the cause. If an investigator misidentifies the origin, the subsequent causal determination will also be flawed. Not understanding the role of ventilation in a fire’s development is a leading factor in mistaking the origin. Attorneys defending clients accused of starting a fire must ensure ventilation effects are properly evaluated and considered to ensure the correct fire origin is identified.

Science Trumps Art in Fire Investigation: The State of Forensic Science

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For many years, a popular adage amongst practitioners has been that fire investigation is a mixture of “art and science.” To many investigators, the identification and interpretation of burn patterns was the “art” of the profession. During the past 20 years, a significant shift has occurred. Today, in the fire investigation field, there is a greater emphasis on fire science and engineering than ever before. While some investigators insist they regularly relied on science, the reality was that non-scientific myths and legends were often used to develop theories and reach conclusions. Burn patterns are still examined and analyzed, but the information used to decipher their significance is, more than ever before, based on provable scientific principles.

Improving the Understanding of Post-Flashover Fire Behavior

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Since the early 1990s, anecdotal evidence showed that on the order of 90% of experienced fire investigators with typical investigation training had difficulties identifying the area of fire origin in fires that had transitioned into post-flashover burning. This paper addresses the fire behavior of such fires and suggests factors investigators should use in evaluating such fire scenes. Its findings have been presented internationally and to fire investigation audiences thoughout the U.S. including at the IAAI Annual Training Conference and the 2008 International Symposium on Fire Investigation and Technology.

Progressive Burn Pattern Development in Post-Flashover Fires

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A follow-on to the research behind Steve Carman's first paper into the research of post-flashover fire behavior, this paper describes the results of a series of test fires designed to interpret burn pattern generation in post-flashover fires. It was presented at the 2009 Fire and Materials Conference in San Francisco.

Clean Burn Fire Patterns - A New Perspective

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In the process of determining the location of a fire’s origin in a building, investigators often rely upon their interpretation of burn patterns created during the fire. Most of the present-day definitions in fire investigation literature associated with the term “clean burn”, relate to oxidative combustion of soot deposited on various surfaces. The authors discusses his hypothesis that the mechanism for clean-burn pattern development may be different than the popular notion of combustion of previously deposited soot. This paper was presented at Interflam 2010 at the University of Nottingham, UK.

Investigation of an Elevated Fire - Perspectives on the 'Z-factor'

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While investigators often consider such “x-y” locations of fuels in a compartment, little attention is given to a fire's base height, the "z-factor." What happens to a fire's growth rate or rate of smoke production when the fire starts well above the compartment floor level? How does the fire response to this condition compare with that of a fire burning near floor level? Answers to such questions are not readily available. Even so, many of the effects can be estimated using general fire dynamics pricipals. Read how an elevated fire can greatly influence carbon monoxide production based only on the base height of the fuel. This paper will be presented at the first 2001 Fire and Materials conference in San Francisco in late January 2011.

High Temperature Accelerant Monograph

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In the late 1970s and 1980s, several bizarre, deadly arson fires were reported in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere across the country. These fires, dubbed "High Temperature Accelerant" (HTA) were the nucleus of thousands of manhours of investigation by the fire investigation and scientific communities. This paper was the federal government's response to address allegations of rampant spread in such fires. It also reviewed several suspected HTA fires in order to identify common factors amoung them and frequent misconceptions regarding their behavior.

Over 30 years of investigative experience analyzing many of the nation’s most notable fire incidents.