One of the main problems posed by fire protection of cultural resources is the behavior of archaic and support materials to the effect of flames and extinguishing agents. We do not know, for example, how a watercolor painting or a fresco behave in case of fire and how water or other extinguishing agents affect theme. Until now, there is an extremely small number of testing and research activities carried on to improve our knowledge about this field of data. In particular, portable fire extinguishers and their associated fire extinguishing agents play an important role in reducing the impact of fire on cultural resource collections. While conservators are well versed in the effects of moisture and water on collections, little data is available on the effects of other non-water based extinguishing agents. To fully evaluate the appropriateness of an extinguisher, its extinguishing effectiveness should be compared to the potential collateral damage to collection materials from the agent and its thermal decomposition products. Such contact with collection materials can occur by overspray during firefighting efforts or the direct spraying of collection materials in an act of vandalism.
This report, produced by the Fire Research Foundation, is downloadble from the website http://www.nfpa.org and documents Phase I of a project designed to quantify the impact of discharging portable fire extinguishing agents on cultural resource materials.
The report includes a comprehensive literature review and the development of prototype specifications and procedures to test the effects of extinguishers. In an anticipated Phase II, the test specifications would be validated and a final specification produced. The results will be used by the NFPA Technical Committee on Cultural Resources (NFPA 909 and 914) to provide users with guidance on extinguisher selection.