Fire Laboratories

A well equipped modern Fire Engineering Laboratory facilities comprising state of the art fire equipment used by experienced academics available for research, teaching and training

The Teaching Fire Laboratory

Fire Laboratory (Teaching)

The laboratory work is broadly based to develop an understanding of the how a material behaves in a fire situation, which is a crucial step in reducing the horrifying losses caused by a fire. The Fire Engineering Laboratory at UCLan includes specialist facilities for both fire safety engineering and fire chemistry in teaching and research. The laboratory is fully equipped for a range of small to intermediate scale fire tests, backed by state of the art analytical and material characterisation facilities. A number of experiments ranging from investigation of fire retardants to the combustion properties of materials can be undertaken in the Fire Engineering Laboratory to support the fire courses allowing the students gain hands-on experience of British and European Standard test methods during a structured series of practical laboratory sessions.

Students on some fire programmes of study may go on to build upon the knowledge accumulated at level one at levels two and three.

The research by members of the Centre for Research in Fire and Hazard Science is incorporated into the Fire Courses via direct teaching in the lecture room and by laboratory sessions. This ensures that our courses continue to demonstrate a strong, well co-ordinated research link, which contributes strongly to the relevance and currency of their content and offer high quality, innovative and intellectually stimulating courses.

A student using an ignitability test 

Student using a fire box 

A fire box after 20 minutes 

Fire Laboratory (Research)

The specialist Fire Research Laboratory has been set up at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston. This has brought together the existing expertise in fire retardancy and fire toxicity which have moved from the Universities of Salford and Bolton to combine with the existing Centre for Fire and Explosion Research produce a Centre of Excellence in Fire and Hazards Science. The Fire Research Laboratory is fully equipped with modern analytical instrumentation and a comprehensive range of small and medium scale fire tests. This will enable the team to pioneer and undertake the development of a new generation of fire safe materials. It will provide a vital service to industrial research and development, allowing improvements in fire safety to be made, before products reach the final, accredited standard testing laboratories. Crucially, it will also provide detailed chemical analysis, presenting a unique insight into how fire retardants work, and how their performance may be improved.

The history of the group’s involvement in fire goes back to 1981, when rapid scanning time-of-flight mass spectrometers with thermal and laser pyrolysis were used to look at the reactive species emanating from decomposing polymers. This approach has evolved into the use of controlled atmosphere and heating rate pyrolysis interfaced to GC-MS for identification of thermal decomposition products.

Much of the specialist equipment at the Laboratory has been designed and developed by our experts over a number of years to gain experimental information towards the above goals. In addition to a suite of laboratory tools for basic decomposition and combustion studies, the Laboratory specialised equipment and facilities.

The UCLan Fire Research Laboratory has a very wide range of experimental methods and many years of experience in understanding the burning behaviour of all types of materials, especially in the development of those with improved performance in fire. This accumulated knowledge and research expertise can be made available through general liaison, advice and consultancy services.

The particular areas of expertise at the UCLan Laboratories are:

  • Burning behaviour and relationship between small and large scale studies
  • Decomposition and combustion mechanisms and influence of additives
  • Quantification of toxicants present in the fire effluent
  • Smoke evolution
  • Environmental aspects

Key equipment available

Fire effluent toxicity and corrosivity

Ignitability and flame spread tests

Ease of extinction tests

Heat Release Measurements

Thermal decomposition and investigation of fire retardant behaviour

Materials Characterisation and Analysis (chemistry laboratory suite)

  • SEM with Elemental Analysis (for nanocomposite characterisation and char analysis)
  • NMR with solid state probe (for materials characterisation and char and residue analysis)
  • X-Ray Diffraction (for nanocomposite characterisation)
  • Atomic Force Microscopy etc.
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for elemental analysis
  • Gas Chromatography (for separating volatile mixtures)
  • High Performance Liquid Chromatography (for separating soluble mixtures)
  • High Performance Ion Chromatography (for quantifying ionic solutes)
  • Optical Microscopies
  • General Wet Chemical Analysis

Research/Non-Test Standard Equipment

  • Fire Boxes- A number of fire boxes are used within the fire lab to determine the effects of ventilation and heat radiation on the effect of compartment fires.
  • Scale Models
    • Fire in inclined trenches (Trench effect)
    • Model house used to Assess the Effectiveness of Positive Pressure Ventilation and smoke movement.
    • Fire investigation model room
    • Domestic Housing 'Bang Box'
More information on this equipment can be found within the Centre for Fire and Hazards Science.

The fire programmes are also supported by access to the facilities at Washington Hall, the UK’s International Fire, Training and Development Centre. The facilities at Washington Hall include a number of fire grounds, flashover units, breathing apparatus units, sprinkler demonstration units, fire extinguisher areas, and a large fire house where a number of scenarios can be simulated. 


JB Firth Building JBF303, JBF304

Opening times, guides and charges

Official workshop hours are: 9:30 to 12.30 and 13.30 to 16:30 (in practice technicians are often available outside of these times)

Industry support (IGA work)

Please contact a member of the research team below for further details

Contact Staff (Teaching)

Stephen Harris | Senior Technician
+44 (0) 1772 89 3229 | JB Firth Building MB114

Tracy Bradford - (Academic) Fire Safety Engineering

LIS Customer Support Team
+44 (0)1772 89 5355

Contact staff (research)

Prof. Richard Hull | Academic | Fire Chemistry, Fire toxicity, Fire retardants

Dr Anna Stec | Academic | Fire Chemistry, Fire toxicity, Fire retardants

Dr. Andrei Chamchine | Academic | Fire and Sustainability; Hazards, Disasters & Emergencies

Dr. Tony Lee Graham | Academic | Combustion, Explosions & Fire Safety Engineering