WPI Fire Protection Lab

Building Fire Safety in the Balance


The buildings we live and work in all represent a kind of compromise. We want them to be attractive, comfortable, cost-effective, and energy efficient, but we also want them to be safe. Sometimes those objectives can come into conflict.

Faculty members in WPI’s world-renowned Department of Fire Protection Engineering are recognized experts on a wide range of issues related to fire safety in the built environment. Their research and scholarship has focused on such topics as the fire characteristics of the materials we use to make buildings, the practices we follow to design them, the creation of codes and regulations that guide building fire safety, and the actual performance of buildings in fires.

Selected Areas of Expertise:

  • Laboratory studies of the fire properties of materials
  • Risk-informed performance-based fire protection design
  • Design and evaluation of active and passive fire protection systems
  • Compartment fire dynamics
  • Human behavior in fire and emergency evacuation
  • Fire risk and building regulatory policy and performance fire codes
  • Post-earthquake fire performance
  • Fire hazards of green and sustainable building materials and practices

WPI Professor Talks to ABC Nightline About Metal Cladding

WPI fire protection engineering professor Brian Meacham was recently interviewed for ABC Nightline about the metal cladding material used in the London apartment building that was destroyed in a June 2017 fire. Professor Meacham's comments can be found at the 1:52 and 3:52 marks in this second part of a 30 minute segment.

Faculty Experts

Nicholas A. Dembsey
Fire Protection Engineering

In today's cost-conscious world, ensuring greater life safety and property protection has never been more challenging. To this end, my research focuses on the building performance applications of fire dynamics, fire characteristics of materials, and fire models. I am working with students in the following areas: fire safety of green buildings; develop of new techniques and guidance documents for practicing engineers to measure fire properties of materials; and in the optimization of building assemblies for fire performance, ease of manufacturing and cost effectiveness.

Milosh T Puchovsky
Professor of Practice
Fire Protection Engineering

Fire protection engineers recognize and assess a broad range of fire and life safety risks and, possess the technical knowledge and skills needed to develop effective solutions. Through my academic endeavors and professional practice, I bring practical perspectives to our students' educational experience. My teaching incorporates situations that practicing fire protection engineers face on a daily basis, facilitating our students' functional understanding of a fire's physical behavior, its impact, and the role of reacting systems, regulations and product standards.

Igniting Innovation

WPI’s state-of-the-art Fire Protection Engineering Laboratory, one of the most sophisticated fire science laboratories in the nation, has one overarching mission: to enable researchers to set things on fire and study how they burn. Since then the lab has played host to faculty and student researchers who are advancing the study of fire science by learning more about the burning characteristics of materials and structures, and applying their findings to help make the world a safer place.

Post-Earthquake Fire Test

Post-earthquake fires are just as destructive as earthquakes themselves. WPI fire protection engineers have carried out pioneering studies of fires in earthquake-damaged structures, including a recent series of tests in buildings made with cold-formed steel conducted on the world’s largest outdoor shake table. 

Media: Please contact Colleen Wamback at 508-831-6775 to schedule an interview with a WPI fire protection engineering expert.