NIST has announced a series of lab experiments conducted to determine the spread of fire from house to house.

In a recent series of full-scale laboratory experiments at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it took less than five minutes for flames from a simulated house with combustible exterior walls to ignite a similar "house" six feet away, according to "NIST TechBeat," the Institute's newsletter.

The experiments were conducted July 19 at the NIST Large Fire Facility. The tests, along with additional tests conducted on July 27 with more fire-resistant structures, are part of a program to develop computer models for predicting the spread of fire in residential communities.

As land prices continue to rise, homes are being built closer together, many without fire-resistant materials. Building officials need information about the rate of fire spread in communities under various house spacing, construction methods and materials, and weather conditions. Fire departments also have to understand the time required for fire spread from one house to another in order to provide adequate response.

NIST plans to summarize its results once an analysis of the tests is complete. Officials considering house separation regulations and/or inclusion of fire-resistant barriers on exterior walls should find such fire spread data useful. For more information on the study, visit