The Engineers Journal is publishing a number of abstracts from the final-year dissertation of Engineers Ireland's accredited BEng (Hons) in Fire Safety Engineering at ATU Donegal (formerly LYIT). The three titles listed here include: 'The efficacy of extinguishing agents on electric vehicle fires'; 'Comparison of fire safety equipment in rental dwellings and private dwellings'; and 'An investigation into the practicalities and legalities of controlled burning within Ireland'. 

1. 'The efficacy of extinguishing agents on electric vehicle fires'

Electric vehicles have increased on roads in the past three years. This increase is driven by popularity and a global aim towards sustainability. With the increase in vehicles, the risk of fire in these vehicles also increase.

There is no standard operational guidance for the fire service in dealing with electric vehicle fires. There is also no certainty on what extinguishing agents to use on these vehicle fires. This dissertation seeks to determine the most effective extinguishing agent for electric vehicle fires.

The research of this dissertation focused on hybrid and fully electric vehicles in Ireland. The limitation to this focus is that commercial vehicles are not included in this study. Full scale testing of electric vehicles is limited. Therefore, data from these tests are not widely available for comparison.

The aim of this dissertation is to discover the most effective agent for extinguishing electric vehicle fires, and a delivery mechanism for that agent. The primary data for this dissertation was obtained during interviews conducted with senior fire officers.

The interview process was to establish if the effective extinguishing agents could be successfully applied by the fire service on a fire in an electric vehicle. Secondary data informed this study in terms of viable extinguishing agents and application methods for the agents.

Experiments were conducted on batteries for electric vehicles. This experimental data was used to meet the aim of the dissertation. It was found that water is the most effective extinguishing agent for fires in electric vehicles.

The thermal property of water allows it to cool the battery module. This cooling would stop the process of thermal runaway in the battery that causes fires.

It was found that more than 10,000 litres of water is needed to extinguish a fire in an electric vehicle. This required volume has an impact on fire service response methods. It is recommended that the findings in this dissertation be used to develop a standard organisational guidance for the fire service for these vehicle types. 

2. 'Comparison of fire safety equipment in rental dwellings and private dwellings' 

There is currently a problem: the number of fatal fires occurring in dwellings.

Between 2015 to 2019, 97% of fatal fires occurred in dwellings. There has not been the same level of research into fatal fires in dwellings compared to that of high-rise buildings, offices and industrial buildings. 

This study investigates the differences in fire safety equipment between rental and private dwellings. To achieve this, this dissertation examined the fatal fires between 2015 to 2019 and the amount of fire safety equipment in dwellings. It also assesses the maintenance of the fire safety equipment and if training of occupants in the use of fire safety equipment could make a difference.

A number of quantitative and qualitative research methods were utilised in this study to gather information to write this dissertation. An interview was conducted with an estate agent to gather data on rental dwellings. 

A questionnaire was carried out to collect information on the amount of fire equipment in dwellings. There was also statistical analysis of fatal fires between 2015 to 2019 performed.

The dissertation concluded that there are differences in fire safety equipment between private and rental properties. The research revealed that the chance of a fatal fire occurring in a private dwelling in Ireland is 0.005%. 

For rental dwellings this is 0.007%. This implies that there is little difference in the chance of a fatal fire occurring in a private dwelling to rental dwelling.  There are however differences in the amount of fire safety equipment in private and rental dwellings. 

This is due to the Statutory Instrument 139 2019 (Minimum Standards for Rental Housing). When it comes to maintenance of the fire safety equipment in rental dwellings it is unclear who is responsible for the inspections and upkeep of them.

It is recommended that further research is carried out into the responsibly of maintenance of fire equipment in rental dwellings. Further research may also be carried out into the behaviour of occupants in a dwelling fire as this may be a main cause of fatal fires.

3. 'An investigation into the practicalities and legalities of controlled burning within Ireland'

The utilisation of controlled burning as a land management technique within Ireland has been in existence since the 18th century. However, as awareness continues to rise surrounding the ecological and environmental impact of uncontrolled fires, an intense debate has arisen between landowners and ecologists embroiled in the matter. 

With an increase in wildfires year on year from poorly conducted burns, both parties have hit an impasse with their discussions. As the discourse continues to escalate, the need for an alternative approach has become readily apparent. 

The alternative measure in questions must appease landowners who require a form of land management and ecologists preserving Ireland’s fauna and flora.

The overall aim and objectives of this dissertation are to investigate the debate while analysing the legislation surrounding controlled burning and studying the alternative measures presented. 

Each alternative introduced in this dissertation will be assessed for its strengths and weaknesses in relation to how it would fare as a plausible idea and for its practicality and execution.

Throughout the dissertation the research methods employed are semi-structured style interviews and a case study. The combination of primary and secondary data enables verification and validation of the data collected and thus the research can be presented in an unbiased manner.

The result of the study concluded that controlled burning when conducted correctly proved to be a valid form of land management, but that how it is currently practised in Ireland is not fit for purpose. 

It was assessed that the feeling in Ireland was that change was needed, as these burnings were now in direct conflict with both European regulations and Irish climate acts. 

Four alternative measures were analysed, with the findings revealing that a multifaceted approach was required due to the variation of terrain found throughout Ireland. 

Of critical importance to the success of these measures were the creation of an educational programme educating landowners on the dangers of fire and the enforcement of stricter penalties for those who illegally burn.

Limitations in the research took the form of time constraints when finding willing participants and a restricted word count. Suggestions for further research are recommended within this dissertation.