Book Review: Fluid Mechanics Aspects of Fire and Smoke Dynamics in Enclosures

Capture (1)By Prof. Jim Milke, University of Maryland

Merci and Beji’s new book on fire dynamics with emphasis on the fluids mechanics aspects is a solid contribution to the literature in the field.  The book could be used as a text for use in fourth year undergraduate or first year graduate level courses or as a high level review for fire safety researchers and engineers.  

The beginning chapters provide a review of fluid mechanics and fundamental principles of combustion.  Subsequent chapters apply fluid mechanics principles to discussions of flame plumes, smoke plumes, fire behavior in enclosures, smoke control approaches, interaction of water sprays on fires and smoke and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling.  While there are other books on fire dynamics, this one is unique on examining fire phenomena through the lens of fluid mechanic principles. 

The fire dynamics chapters (fire plumes, smoke plumes, enclosure fires and CFD) are the strongest chapters.  The topics in these chapters are most amenable to a first-principles presentation.  In these chapters, the authors begin with a fundamental principle such as a conservation law and continue to explore a selected topic such as air entrainment or mass flows in enclosure fires.  In many cases, the presentation includes a detailed derivation of an expression of use in engineering analyses.  The derived expressions, such as Zukoski’s plume entrainment correlation, are familiar ones that are included in handbooks and other references focused on applications.  The derivations represent a very significant contribution by this book, given that many other books avoid these detailed derivations. 

At the end of most chapters, some questions are included that could be used as a useful review or as a homework assignment (answers are provided, though readers will need to provide step-by-step solutions).  One drawback relative to using this book as a textbook is that there are no examples with detailed solutions and not every chapter includes a set of questions to be solved. 

The chapter on the interaction of water sprays on plumes and smoke layers is the least developed relative to a discussion which starts with a fundamental principle and results in an algebraic equation that can be used in an analysis.  That situation is a reflection of the complexity of that topic and the state-of-the-art, not a deficiency of the book.  Nonetheless, the authors do present the fundamental fluids principles which apply to the interaction of sprays with plumes and smoke layers, with the remainder of the discussion being qualitative in nature.  The presentation on this overall topic does suffer somewhat from the limited discussion of activity from researchers other than the authors, especially compared to the breadth of discussion in the other chapters. 

The smoke control chapter provides a comprehensive review of fluid mechanics principles affecting smoke movement in buildings or strategies to limit such movement.  The presentation of fundamentals in this chapter is solid.  However, the breadth and detail of derivations in this area are not at the same level as those for plumes and fire behavior in enclosures.  Also, this chapter provides references to old NFPA design standards.  For example, the cited NFPA 92B document has been updated by two more recent editions.  As such, some of the information is outdated, such as that for plugholing.  The reference of NFPA 92B relating to natural ventilation is incorrect, and should be to NFPA 204. 

Even with those few shortcomings, the Meric and Beji’s book is still a valuable addition to the library of any fire safety researcher or engineer.  Its comprehensive discussion of fluid mechanics principles applied to plumes, fire behavior in enclosures and CFD models is unparalleled. 

Book Details

Edited by: Bart Merci and Tarek Beji

CRC Press, 2016

ISBN 9781138029606