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J Forensic Sci. 2004 Jan;49(1):104-7.

The application of NIST's Fire Dynamics Simulator to the investigation of carbon monoxide exposure in the deaths of three Pittsburgh fire fighters.

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  • 1U.S. Tennessee Valley Authority Police, 400 W. Summit Hill Dr., WT-3D, Knoxville, TN, USA.


A case is reported in which computer fire modeling was used to reevaluate a fire that killed three fire fighters. NIST's Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) was employed to model the fire in order to estimate the concentration of carbon monoxide present in the dwelling, which was the immediate cause of death of two of the fire fighters, who appear to have removed their face pieces in order to share available air. This estimate, along with an assumed respiration volume and known blood carboxyhemoglobin, was plugged into a standard equation to estimate the time of exposure. The model indicated that 27 min into the fire, the carbon monoxide concentration had already reached approximately 3600 ppm. At this concentration, and a respiration of 70 L/min, an estimated 3 to 8 min of exposure would have been required to accumulate the concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (49, 44, and 10%) measured on the fire fighters at autopsy.

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