Fire spread within Informal settlements - quantification and mitigation experiments

IRIS-Fire is an EPSRC-funded research collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Stellenbosch University, South Africa with the aim to develop new methods and tools required to evaluate and model fire risks within informal settlements of the Western Cape in South Africa to improve the resilience of South African informal settlement communities against large-scale conflagrations.

Over one billion people across the globe live in informal shack settlements, and this number is ever increasing. Many of these informal settlements (i.e. shantytowns, favelas, slums) are at constant risk of lethal, large-scale destructive fires due to flammable construction materials, heating and cooking methods, shack proximity, a lack of effective fire services, etc. For occupants of these shacks death and injury from fire constitute ‘a serious public health problem’; 96% of the world’s burn-related deaths (≈300,000/year) occur in lower and middle-income countries (WHO 2016). IRIS-Fire will examine the hypothesis that fire spread in informal settlements can be technically treated using similar physics models and tools found in wildland fire analysis.

This PhD project will design, develop and undertake experiments on single and multiple shacks to quantify key parameters (fire growth, HRR, heat flux to adjacent structures ) to understand the fire spread between shacks in close proximity. These experiments will be used to develop bespoke informal settlement fire models to predict large scale fire experiments to be held in South Africa, and to perform risk profiling of South African informal settlements.

Closing Date: 

Friday, April 20, 2018
Informal Settlement Community
Informal Settlement Community

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


A strong background in the principles of heat transfer, combustion science and thermodynamics. Experience of fire science, fire safety, and/or fluid dynamics would be beneficial but not essential.

Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Tuition fees and stipend are available for Home/EU students (International students can apply, but the funding only covers the Home/EU fee rate)

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: