FR Engineering centre of fire robots technology
Fire robots and fire monitors
the basis for the modern
fire extinguishing

Save and preserve the landmarks of wooden architecture

Yuri Gorban,
General Director of “Engineering centre of fire robots technology “FR”,
academician of the NANPB.

Sergey Nemchinov
Deputy Head of the Chief Directorate of the EMERCOM of Russia for the Republic of Karelia
(for the State Fire Service), Colonel of Internal Service

Federal Law of June 25, 2002 No. 73- “On Objects of Cultural Heritage (Historical and Cultural Monuments) of the Peoples of the Russian Federation” defines a system of measures to preserve objects of cultural heritage. But there are no special fire safety standards for such facilities. At the same time, the cost of the most expensive fire protection systems is disproportionately low with the possible loss of historical heritage.

The protection of monuments of wooden architecture is a challenging task. On the one hand, everyone understands perfectly well that this is quite necessary. On the other hand, this is an overwhelming task for both municipal and regional authorities. All this leads to an annual reduction in the number of monuments of wooden architecture in the country. Fires that occur in such buildings completely destroy both the interior decoration and the building itself, leaving no chance to restore the lost masterpiece, even considering the development of modern technologies.

The fire occurred in the Dormition Church (Kondopoga, Republic of Karelia) in the summer of 2018 showed us once again the vulnerability of such structures to the fire. The pearl of the Russian North, an object of cultural heritage, a monument of wooden architecture ... turned into a pile of charred logs in a few hours. The fire alarm system with a signal output to the central observation post (COP), physical security, time of arrival of firefighting units – everything was arranged in accordance with the existing fire safety requirements. However, all this did not save the church from total destruction. By the time of arrival of the first firefighting units, the western part and the porch of the church were on fire, the building was already blazing inside... And such fires are far from being unique both in our country and in Europe and across the globe.

How to save and protect the uniqueness of such monuments? The best experts from a lot of countries are working on this issue. Unfortunately, there are no direct requirements (even if only declarative) on the protection of such monuments in Russia at present. In some cases, certain specification requirements are being developed for a specific object subject to appropriate governmental funding. However, the leading part even of these requirements refers not to the protection of a monument, but to the possibility of its use (security procedures, maintenance of escape routes, etc.)

In this context, an example of our Scandinavian colleagues is of our interest. In 2018, the KA, a Norwegian state-owned company performing maintenance of the monuments of wooden architecture, involved COWI company in the study of conventional and modern fire extinguishing systems usage for the protection of church-houses built in the 19th century. The COWI company was assigned a task to select the best solutions for fire protection of wooden buildings based on the results of practical tests.

Based on the results of the work, a report “Study of effectiveness of fire suppression water systems for the protection of wooden churches and historic buildings” [1] was drawn up, excerpts from which are provided below.

The results of tests conducted in the Danish Fire Laboratory in 2017-2018 were presented in the report. Eight fire suppression systems were tested.


  • Sprinkler system;
  • High pressure WM system;
  • Low pressure WM system;
  • Robotic fire suppression system.


  • Sprinkler system;
  • Low pressure WM system;
  • Robotic fire suppression system;
  • Manual foam fire suppression system (demonstration).

As an equipment, the conventional automatic fire extinguishing systems of European manufacturers (Norway and Sweden), as well as a Russian-made robotic fire suppression system were used.

“Three full-scale wooden installations were used for testing: one for indoor testing, one for outdoor testing and one for a heavy indoor fire test. The structure included walls, cornices and inclined/horizontal roofs. The wall height was 7 or 8.5 m, the room height was 8.5 m, and the area was 10 x 10 m. Two sources of fire from Euro-pallets were used, one of which was so-called “single fire area” (accidental fire), and another was a more complicated case referred to as “arson”. If the test installation allowed, wooden panels were tested for the so-called burn-through time. The response time is of crucial importance: if the burnout occurred prior to firefighters’ arrival, the complete destruction of the building is possible. Any burnout can cause hidden fire in a building or room.

Sprinklers activated as a result of heating are often ineffective due to the low intensity rate of the fire extinguishing agents leading to the spread of fire: the fire was extinguished in several minutes in less than 1/3 of cases. Another 1/3 of fires was controllable, and the last 1/3 of fires was not extinguished at all. Adaptation of the position of the firefighting robot to the fire scenarios, K coefficient (note: intensity) and pressure increased the probability of successful extinguishing and reduced the time of fire suppression as compared to the standard parameters. During the tests, it became clear that the research results were valid for any similar wooden structure, that is, other types of churches of different ages, public buildings, galleries, historic buildings and museums, etc. The project got the support from the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural heritage — Riksantikvaren, Knif Trygghet Forsikring AS and Stiftelsen UNI.”

The analysis of this report showed all the pros and cons of conventional and new fire extinguishing media. It became obvious that the conventional sprinkler and WM systems are good in small and medium-sized rooms, except in cases when the fire became extensive due to a delay in starting the system. In this case, a greater intensity was required to extinguish the fire, and mobile firefighting equipment of the local fire department were used. The main problems are the meeting rooms, halls, large lofts, as well as similar rooms with high ceilings in wooden churches and other historic buildings. High ceilings increase the operating time of sprinklers due to increased time of elements. This leads to a significant development of the fire in the room, longer time of its extinguishing at a given sprinkling intensity. Due to the low intensity, the WM systems did not extinguish the fire area in this case, but only reduced the room temperature (data from the table: “control < 140°C”).

The best performances were demonstrated by a robotic fire suppression system. The times of system “activation” and fire extinguishing, the areas of “wetting" and charring, the total consumption of fire extinguishing agent were minimal when using this system as compared to other tested systems. Moreover, similar values are presented in a report on fire tests outside the building.

The results of these tests will form the basis of a new regulatory document on the protection of monuments of wooden architecture in Norway.

In Russia, firefighting robots were used for the first time for protection of the cultural heritage of the Kizhi Open-Air Museum. Over the past 35 years, the performances of the robotic firefighting system were improved, and the experience was gained during carrying out of activities on protection of objects in space, aviation, oil-and-gas, and woodworking industries. Robots have been successfully used for the protection of crowded places. Certain design changes allowed to proceed to a new product model, namely a mini robot. Its geometric dimensions are minimal, while the area of operation is up to 3,000 m2. Keeping up with the times, firefighting robots have become digital, self-testing, capable of event recording and suitable for remote access via the Internet and mobile communications.

The works on new standards development in respect of the monuments are also being carried out In Russia, but so far, this only applies to objects of religious and worship designation. It is worth reminding that the requirements of the SP (Construction Regulations) [2] do not stipulate the protection of monuments using fire suppression systems, but only the use of the AFSS as in general case. SP [3] provides the requirements to the protection of the domed spaces in religious buildings by dry standpipes with deluge systems. However, there are some restrictions: “except for the buildings of IV and V grades of fire resistance, as well as buildings with a prayer hall volume of less than 7.5 thousand m” — just like in the Dormition Church in Kondopoga. The proposed draft SP [4] details and improves the methods of protection of large halls. Particularly, it is proposed in this draft document: “If it is impossible to extinguish with straight streams from the handline nozzles in the highest part of the room, a provision should be made regarding the use of fire monitors with manual or automatic (robotic) control.”

But once again, we mean those objects whose geometric dimensions — the volume of the building — suggest their provision with an internal fire water pipeline system. And how to deal with small buildings, when the values of the buildings themselves and masterpieces inside them are incommensurably greater than all costs of security assurance? And why the draft standards do not include the requirements for the protection of the areas outside these buildings? The analysis of such fires shows that their most likely cause is a source brought in from the outside.



Fig. 6. Test results for a single indoor fire

It is worth reminding that, according to the Federal Law (FZ) [5], “objects of cultural heritage (historical and cultural monuments) of the peoples of the Russian Federation include the real estate objects (including archaeological heritage objects) and other objects with historically related territories, paintings, sculptures, decorative and applied works, objects of science and technology and other objects of material culture that have arisen as a result of historical events, being of value in terms of history, archeology, architecture, urban development, art, science and technology, aesthetics, ethnology or anthropology, and social culture, and being the evidence of eras and civilizations, the authentic sources of information about the genesis and development of culture. Under the state protection of the objects of cultural heritage, it is meant a system of legal, organizational, financial, material, technical, information and other measures taken by the state authorities of the Russian Federation, state authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, and local authorities within their competence, aimed at identifying, accounting, and study of objects of cultural heritage, prevention of their destruction or infliction of harm to them.”

It is undoubtedly a national task to preserve memory and history and pass a rich legacy to the future generations. And there are examples of careful attitude to such monuments. We need the will, desire, and rallying around this goal of truly concerned specialists, as well as mobilization of necessary resources. Moreover, most of technical solutions are already available and tested at other objects. A serious analysis of the existing fire protection systems, their effectiveness in different scenarios, and the development of a concept of the use of these systems or the variability of their common use is required. This concept should form a basis of the regulatory document on provision of fire safety of the objects of cultural heritage.


1. Jensen, G: KA PROJECT Test report. Fire fighting systems: Comparison of performances of interior and exterior applications at large wood buildings, 2018 (COWI, Norway).

2. SP 5.13130.2009 “Fire protection systems. Automatic fire extinguishing and alarm systems. Design rules and regulations” (with Amendment No. 1).

3. SP 258.1311500.2016 “Rules and regulations. Objects of religious designation. Fire safety requirements.”

4. Draft Code “Objects of cultural heritage of religious designation. Fire safety requirements when carrying out adaptation works.”

5. Federal Law No. 73-FZ of 25.06.2002 (as revised on 27.12.2018) “On objects of cultural heritage (historical and cultural monuments) of the peoples of the Russian Federation.”.

Safety Algorithm|2019 . 1