et ablaze and falling apart, the two-story house at 289 Manning St. met its end Wednesday afternoon and concluded Spartanburg Burns.
Fire officials and scientists set fire to five vacant houses in Spartanburg’s Northside within a five-day span to conduct research regarding the movement of fire within single-family homes.
“We’re glad it’s over,” Spartanburg Fire Chief Marion Blackwell said sarcastically. “It’s been a process. We started this last November. For 21 days, we’ve been here every day getting the houses prepared.”
The neighborhood was subject to smoke, heat and ashes.
“We burned a different house each day with some with similar setups and some with different setups,” state Fire Marshal Shane Ray said.
Wednesday’s experiment involved setting a basement on fire and observing how flames progressed through the house. Another test Wednesday involved setting fire to an object on a back deck and seeing how the blaze climbed up an outside wall.
By experimenting on a variety of houses, scientists with the National Institute of Standards and Technology were able to analyze the effects of airflow on fires during real-world scenarios.
NIST fire protection engineer Dan Madrzykowski said that the event looked at a range of scenarios.
“They ranged from garage fires to basement fires, to fires that would be in an upstairs bedroom, or fires that would have originated in a living room,” Madrzykowski said.
Those attending Spartanburg Burns concluded that new materials found in modern-day home furnishings are increasing a fire’s intensity.
“We have more contents in our houses, especially since 25 years ago,” Ray said.
Ray also said that the synthetic materials in newer furniture give off more smoke and suffocate the fire.
By collecting data from various instruments, NIST found that synthetic materials have a higher heat release rate than cotton materials by comparing old and new furnishings, Madrzykowski said.
Researchers and officials also found that closing a home’s doors could help firefighters extinguish the fire faster.
Croft Fire Department Capt. J.D. McCarley said that he hopes homeowners will close their doors to slow down any fire in their home.
Even though the event resulted in new discoveries and statistics, Spartanburg Burns will not be returning next year. The FEMA grant that funded the research will expire, Blackwell said.
The end of funding has not kept some from hoping for another event in a different location.
“I would like to maybe see it in Charlotte, (N.C.) Myrtle Beach, Augusta (Ga.) or Greenville,” McCarley said.
McCarley said that it would be beneficial if the event were renewed because of its educational value and the destruction of “eyesores.”
The house-burning spectacle did create economic gain, Blackwell said.
He said that the economic benefit came from hotel rooms and other services used by the visiting fire departments. The departments came from areas as far as Canada, California, Oklahoma and Ohio, among others.
“To see all the different fire officials from across the United States and even Canada coming here and watch what we’re doing and to learn from it, that’s awesome,” Blackwell said.
The burnings also gained attention from the Discovery Channel, which filmed in Spartanburg Tuesday to highlight the scientific findings of NIST.