Foreword written by Jean-Marc Franssen in the proceedings of the
First Workshop Structures in Fire 2000 held in Copenhagen:

Why this workshop?

Looking back some 10 or 20 years ago, the scientific community dealing with the problem of fire in buildings could, schematically, be divided into two separate groups; one group was dealing with the fire side of the problem and was considering that the temperature of 540°C was anything which had to be known concerning the structure of the building; the other group was investigating the behaviour of the structure, quite happy with the comfortable feeling that the ISO curve was a perfect representation of the fire.

The disadvantages of this situation with very little, if any, communication between the two groups progressively became more and more evident and people started to consider talking to each other and, even more, to widen their field of investigation and have a look into the other guy’s garden. Other aspects also came into consideration such the behaviour of human beings, risk analysis, etc. This evolution lead to the now widely accepted concept of Fire Safety Engineering which, simply saying, is nothing more than the fact that we are starting to treat the problem of Fire Safety in the way that engineers treat other problems, i.e. trying to do their best in order to take into consideration every phenomenon which is suspected to play a role.

There was anyway a positive aspect to the situation prevailing in these old days: it was very easy and common to meet and discuss with the few people who had a real expertise in your field of application. Specialised meetings were regularly organised in which all the experts who counted would normally show up. For the structural analysis, some examples are:
-the ECCS Workshop on material properties at elevated temperatures, by ECCS committee 3 - Fire safety of steel structures, in Arnhem, The Netherlands, in Jure 1986,
-the EGOLF seminar “Protection contre l‘incendie des structures en acier. Harmonisation Européenne", in Brussels, Belgium, in November 1986,
-the Abschlusskolloquium "Bauwerke unter Brandeinwerlcung", Technische Universitat Bratmschweig, in Bratmschweig, Germany, in April 1987,
-the Eurocodes, Structural Fire Design, Seminar organised by the Eurocode fire drafting goups, in Luxembourg, in June 1990,
-the 3rd CIB/W 14 Fire Safety Engineering Workshop on Modelling, in Rijswijk, The Nederlands, in January 1993,
-or, to some extend, the First European Symposium on Fire Safety Science, IAFSS, in Zurich, Switzerland, in August 1995.

The field of interest was certainly too narrow, but the progress were spectacular. Nowadays, the same specialists and their presentations tend to be disseminated in different places and various meetings: for the organiser of every structural conference on steel, on concrete or on wood, this looks much smarter if he has a session on such an exotic topic as fire, and a couple of papers are indeed published in these general conferences but the interest of the public is generally poor, and very few of those who would really be interested are present. The same problem holds for the publications that, as academic, many researchers have to present in some journals which are prestigious but have only a marginal interest for fire.

Concerning the big conferences specifically dedicated to the fire - and leaving apart that some of them appear now to be concurrent which is another reason of dissemination - if they are of the highest importance because they allow to open your eyes to other aspects than those that you treat in your everyday life, it has to be recognised that the number of presentation is so high that very short time can be dedicated to discussion and that it is not easy to have detailed information on a specific topic.

At the end of 1998 and during the year of l999, the idea was circulating that a specific association could be created on the topic of structural fire modelling. An exchange of e-mail messages followed and, finally, the topic was discussed in July at an informal meeting in Poitiers during the IAFSS symposium. The general opinion was that it would be better not to have a new association, because there are already so many of them. In order to promote a more intense circulation of information among those interested by the subject, two actions were decided: one was the creation of the SiF discussion list on internet, and the second one was the organisation of this workshop.