Fire protection engineering

Fire engineering is the application of science and engineering principles to protect people, property, and their environments from the harmful and destructive effects of fire and smoke. It encompasses fire protection engineering which focuses on fire detection, suppression and mitigation and fire safety engineering which focuses on human behavior and maintaining a tenable environment for evacuation from a fire. In the United States fire protection engineering is often used to include fire safety engineering.

The discipline of fire engineering includes, but is not exclusive to:

Fire protection engineers identify risks and design safeguards that aid in preventing, controlling, and mitigating the effects of fires. Fire engineers assist architects, building owners and developers in evaluating buildings' life safety and property protection goals. Fire engineers are also employed as fire investigators, including such very large-scale cases as the analysis of the collapse of the World Trade Center. NASA uses fire engineers in its space program to help improve safety.[2] Fire engineers are also employed to provide 3rd party review for performance based fire engineering solutions submitted in support of local building regulation applications.


Fire engineering's roots date back to Ancient Rome, when the Emperor Nero ordered the city to be rebuilt utilizing passive fire protection methods, such as space separation and non-combustible building materials, after a catastrophic fire.[3] The discipline of fire engineering emerged in the early 20th century as a distinct discipline, separate from civil, mechanical and chemical engineering, in response to new fire problems posed by the Industrial Revolution. Fire protection engineers of this era concerned themselves with devising methods to protect large factories, particularly spinning mills and other manufacturing properties.[citation needed] Another motivation to organize the discipline, define practices and conduct research to support innovations was in response to the catastrophic conflagrations and mass urban fires that swept many major cities during the latter half of the 19th century (see city or area fires). The insurance industry also helped promote advancements in the fire engineering profession and the development of fire protection systems and equipment.[3]

In 1903 the first degree program in fire protection engineering was initiated as the Armour Institute of Technology (later becoming part of the Illinois Institute of Technology).[4]

As the 20th century emerged, several catastrophic fires [5] resulted in changes to buildings codes to better protect people and property from fire. It was only in the latter half of the 20th Century that fire protection engineering emerged as a unique engineering profession.[citation needed] The primary reason for this emergence was the development of the “body of knowledge,” specific to the profession that occurred after 1950.[citation needed] Other factors contributing to the growth of the profession include the start of the Institution of Fire Engineers in 1918 in the UK, and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers in 1950 in the USA, the emergence of independent fire protection consulting engineer, and the promulgation of engineering standards for fire protection.[citation needed]