Analysis of a bridge failure due to fire using computational fluid dynamics and finite element models

J. Alos-Moya, I. Paya-Zaforteza, Maria Eugenia Moreyra Garlock, E. Loma-Ossorio, D. Schiffner, A. Hospitaler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Bridge fires are a major concern because of the consequences that these kind of events have and because they are a real threat. However, bridge fire response is under researched and not covered in the codes. This paper studies the capabilities of numerical models to predict the fire response of a bridge and provides modeling guidelines useful for improving bridge design. To reach this goal, a numerical analysis of the fire of the I-65 overpass in Birmingham, Alabama, USA in 2002 is carried out. The analyses are based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for creating the fire model, and finite element (FE) software for obtaining the thermo-mechanical response of the bridge. The models are validated with parametric studies that consider heat release rate of the spilled fuel, discretization of the fire temperature in the transition from CFD to FE modeling, and boundary conditions. The validated model is used in a study to evaluate the influence of fire scenario (CFD versus standard fires), and live load. Results show that numerical models are able to simulate the response of the bridge and can be used as a basis for a performance-based approach for the design of bridges under fire. Additionally, it is found that applying the Eurocode standard and hydrocarbon fires along the full length of the bridge does not adequately represent a real bridge fire response for medium-long span bridges such as this case study. The study also shows that live loads essentially do not influence the response of the bridge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-110
Number of pages15
JournalEngineering Structures
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering


  • Bridge
  • CFD
  • Fire
  • I-65 overpass
  • Performance-based design
  • Steel girder bridge


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