A Review of Fundamental Combustion Phenomena in Wire Fires

  • Xinyan HuangEmail author
  • Yuji Nakamura
Invited Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Fire Science Reviews


Electrical wires and cables have been identified as a potential source of fire in residential buildings, nuclear power plants, aircraft, and spacecraft. This work reviews the recent understandings of the fundamental combustion processes in wire fire over the last three decades. Based on experimental studies using ideal laboratory wires, physical-based theories are proposed to describe the unique wire fire phenomena. The review emphasizes the complex role of the metallic core in the ignition, flame spread, burning, and extinction of wire fire. Moreover, the influence of wire configurations and environmental conditions, such as pressure, oxygen level, and gravity, on wire-fire behaviors are discussed in detail. Finally, the challenges and problems in both the fundamental research, using laboratory wires and numerical simulations, and the applied research, using commercial cables and empirical function approaches, are thoroughly discussed to guide future wire fire research and the design of fire-safe wire and cables.


Electrical wire Laboratory wire Cable Insulation and core Fire modelling 

List of Symbols


Strain rate (s−1)


Cross-section area (mm2)


Mass transfer number (–)


Bond number (–)


Specific heat (kJ/kg/K)


Diameter (mm)


Damkohler number (–)


Activation energy (kJ/mol)


Gravity acceleration (m/s2)


Thermal conductance (W m/K)


Grashof number (–)


Convection coefficent (W/m2 K)


The heat of reaction (MJ/kg)


Electrical current (A)


External heating length (m)


Nusselt number (–)


Mass (g)


Mass-loss rate (kg/s)

\(\dot{m}^{{\prime \prime }}\)

Mass loss flux (kg/m2 s)


Index (–)


Mass of one drip (mg)


Number (–)


Perimeter (m) or pressure (Pa)


Peclet number (–)


Heat flux (kW/m2)


Radius of wire


Universal gas constant (J/mol K)


Electrical resistance (Ω/m)


Flame-spread rate (mm/s)


Time (s)


Temperature (°C)


Airflow speed (m/s)


Flame width (m)


Wire axial direction


Mass fraction (%)


Pre-exponential factor (s−1)



Thermal diffusivity (m2/s)


Surface tension (Pa)


Thickness (mm)


Inclination angle (°)


Density (kg/m3)


Surface tension (Pa)


Thermal conductivity (W/m K)


Non-dimensional number (–)


Kinematic viscosity (m2/s)


Dynamic viscosity (Pa s)


Equivalence ratio (–)


Cable classification number (–)


Radiative heat loss fraction (–)












Between core and insulation














Joule heat






Plastic insulation




Surface reradiation



CE MArking of Cables




Fluorinated ethylene propylene


Fire growth rate (W/s)


Heat release rate (kW)


Limiting oxygen concentration (%)




Nuclear power plant


Nuclear Regulatory Commission




Peak heat release rate (MW)


Polymethyl methacrylate


Polyvinyl chloride


Stainless steel


Thermogravimetric analysis


Total heat release (MJ)


Thermal inertia (kJ2/m4 K2 s)



XH thanks the support from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) No. 51876183. YN thanks the support from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (A) # 21681022.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Building Services EngineeringThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHong KongChina
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringToyohashi University of TechnologyToyohashiJapan

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