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Fire & Explosion Investigations,
Litigation Support

CSE uses a systematic approach to the investigation and analysis of fire and explosion incidents. Using scientific and engineering principles, CSE is able to provide sound origin and cause determinations and detailed analyses of fire and smoke spread.

For more information please contact:

Doug Carpenter

Stephen Olenick

Site Investigations

CSE has a complement of licensed, Certified Fire and Explosion Investigators (CFEI) and Professional Engineers (PE) on staff with experience in residential, commercial, and industrial fire origin and cause investigation. As members of the NFPA 921 committee and various other code making entities, CSE's investigation staff is well-versed in the use of proper methodology and fundamental scientific principles when conducting their investigations. CSE is equipped with state-of-the-art photography, videography and measurement equipment for scene documentation and has working relationships with public officials and private investigation firms throughout the country.

Fire Hazard & Code Analysis

CSE has the expertise and experience to provide fire hazard and code analyses for the purposes of preventing or minimizing the impact of fire incidents or to better understand the growth and spread of a fire after an -incident has occurred. Our fire protection engineers can utilize prescriptive and/or performance-based design techniques in evaluating new structural designs and renovations for life safety and fire protection systems needs. CSE's extensive scope of considerations includes system failure analysis, hazard identification and fire scenario development, fire suppression/detection system actuation, and halon replacement options. Considerations for consequence analyses are made to include life safety, property loss, continuity of operations, and environmental effects. Additionally, from a differential damage perspective, CSE has evaluated structures, post-fire incident, to determine if code violations played a role in the growth and spread of smoke and fire.

Fire Reconstruction

With more than 6000 sq ft of laboratory space, CSE has the in-house facilities and resources for small to mid-scale fire reconstruction projects. CSE is equipped with a full-scale, two room corridor test facility and 2/5-scale test compartment, as well as exhaust hoods capable of venting fires sized up to 400 kW. Additionally, CSE has a mobile instrumentation unit for off-site testing in large-scale reconstruction incidents, and CSE has a working relationship with various institutions with facilities for large-scale fire reconstruction. Past cooperation for full-scale scenarios includes the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, and the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center at New Mexico Tech.

Fire Modeling

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CSE is involved in the development and use of a wide range of fire modeling codes including zone models (e.g. CFAST), field models (i.e., commercial CFD models and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS)), and specialized models for movement of smoke and other contaminants (e.g. CONTAM and ASET-B). CSE recognizes the importance of model verification and validation and makes extensive use of in-house experimental results and existing literature data to verify the appropriateness and accuracy of its models. CSE's vast knowledge of fire growth and development allows for proper interpretation of modeling results. A voluntary survey of the capabilities and availability of computer fire models has been conducted by CSE and the results, as well as an associated Journal of Fire Protection Engineering article are available at

Material Characterization and Product Liability

An essential component of fire investigation is understanding the flammability and combustion characteristics of materials involved in the initiation and spread of a fire. CSE has numerous test apparatus for material characterization, including the RPP, TPP, and Dynamic Radiant/Convective Flow apparatuses, as well as, dual radiant panels, burners, and a convective oven. CSE has a full array of radiometers, thermocouples, and gas analysis equipment to capture material data during combustion. CSE has conducted thousands of failure analysis tests on products involved in various fire and combustion incidents including clothing (children and adult as well as thermally protective), interior and exterior structural elements, heating and cooling devices, electrical components and systems, and fire notification devices.

Expert Witness Testimony

CSE takes pride in our report writing skills and ensures that reports are clear and concise through the review of an on-staff technical writer. CSE's engineers have vast experience in deposition and courtroom testimony in both civil and criminal cases in state, district and federal courts throughout the USA.

Evidence Inspection & Storage

CSE has on-site facilities and equipment to host detailed evidence inspections. Equipment available for inspections include photographic and videographic recording, microscope inspection and on-site machining capabilities.

If your sector could benefit from our expertise and you’d like to hire us for your next project, please get in touch.

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