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Fire Experts at Reax Engineering Inc


Carlos Fernandez-Pello, PhD Fire Expert Carlos Fernandez-Pello
Carlos Fernandez-Pello is an internationally-recognized fire expert with over 30 years of experience in fire forensics. He has testified as a fire expert witness on numerious occasions in US Federal and State Court as well as in Australia. His areas of fire expertise span several areas including ignition of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels; fire modeling; flame spread and fire spread; flammable liquid pool fire burning; self heating and spontaneous combustion; smoldering and transition from smolder to flaming; ignition of spot fires by embers and heated particles; and smoke detector product liability.

Carlos received a PhD from the University of California San Diego in 1975 with a dissertation on flame spread. His post-doctoral work took him to Harvard and Princeton Universities where he conducted fire and combustion research. In 1980, Dr. Fernandez-Pello became a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley where he has remained since. Over his career, Carlos has published hundreds of journal and conference papers related to combustion and fire.

Carlos Fernandez-Pello's resume/curriculum vitae.
Chris Lautenberger, PhD, PE
Fire Experts Rich and Lautenberger

Chris received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering (major area: Combustion, minor areas: Fluid Dynamics and Wildland Fire Science) from the University of California at Berkeley with a dissertation related to materials' flammability and fire modeling. He also received an MS in Fire Protection Engineering from WPI with a thesis related to computational fluid dynamics modeling of fires. Chris is licensed as a Fire Protection Engineer (Professional Engineer) in the state of California. He is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator in accordance with the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI-CFEI).

Lautenberger’s professional activities span building code and fire code consulting, fire science research, design of fire protection and life safety systems, and forensic analysis of fires and explosions. His areas of fire expertise include fire origin & cause analyses with an emphasis on testing fire investigation hypotheses using science; product liability analysis; analysis of building and fire code requirements for design of new buildings as well as for post-fire investigations; structural and wildland fire modeling; sprinkler and smoke detector activation and performance; ignition and burning of gases, liquids, and solids; ignition of fuels by heated particles, sparks, and embers; materials flammability; and smoke exhaust system sizing.

Chris regularly applies the Scientific Method to test fire investigation hypotheses under NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, by using fire dynamics and fire modeling to assess whether a particular hypothesis is consistent with fire science and the available forensic evidence, or should be eliminated due to contradictions with the same. Chris has over 13 years of experience applying fire dynamics and fire modeling in support of scientific research, Fire Protection Engineering design, and fire investigation.

Dr. Lautenberger teaches graduate-level courses in Fire Dynamics and Fire Modeling in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Before joining Reax Engineering his professional experience included building and fire code consulting, fire modeling, and performance-based design of fire protection and life safety systems at Arup Fire (San Francisco, CA) and Code Consultants, Inc. (St. Louis, MO) as well as forensic fire reconstruction and analysis as an independent consultant.

Chris Lautenberger's resume/curriculum vitae.

David Rich, PhD

Fire Expert RichDr. Rich earned his PhD in the Combustion and Fire Processes Laboratory at the University of California working on NASA projects to better understand the behavior of fire in zero gravity conditions. Dr. Rich brings a diverse background to engineering, with research and development experience in academia and the private sector, in combustion, bioengineering and mechanical design combined with practical experience as a Rescue Captain and Paramedic in the San Francisco Fire Department. He is a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley, in the Fire Protection Engineering graduate program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and in thermo-fluid sciences at Santa Clara University. Dr. Rich is a fire expert with comprehensive experience in the fire testing laboratory and with sophisticated analysis and modeling tools. He is an experienced designer and peer reviewer of building fire safety systems, especially performance based systems supported by computational methods and experimental mock-ups. Dr. Rich has broad experience as an expert in legal matters, conducting fire scene investigations, review of expert opinions, evidence collection, systems analysis, experimental investigations, computational fire modeling and graphics support for trial and mediation.

David Rich's resume/curriculum vitae.

Armin Wolski, M.Sc., PE Armin Wolski Code Consultant
Armin Wolski is a licensed fire protection engineer and fire-life safety building code consultant. With more than 20 years experience in the building design and construction industry, he has expertise in interpreting both prescriptive and performance building codes and standards including the International Codes (International Building Code/International Fire Code/International Residential Code), National Fire Protection Association UL, FM-Global and ASTM Standards. Armin holds an M. Sc. degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a B. Sc. Degree from U.C. Berkeley, and is a recognized fire expert on the subject of acceptable risk and fire safety regulations, having published widely in this area including a chapter in the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering entitled "Fire Risk Assessment in Air, Rail, and Sea Mass Transportation".

Armin is routinely appointed to assist regulatory and standards making bodies with his fire expertise including: the International Code Council (ICC) Means of Egress Committee, National Fire Protection Association Fire Risk Assessment Methods, the State of California Building Commission Technical Subcommittee on Fire, and the City of San Francisco Board of Examiners.

With an in depth understanding of the building and fire codes, Armin consults with owners and designers to assist their efforts in addressing design challenges and code deficiencies in creative ways. He does this by addressing the intent of the code with performance based design concepts, rather than blindly following the code’s prescriptive letter. His fire and building code consulting activities have a global reach, having worked on a variety of projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Mr. Wolski's expertise with analyzing fire safety in buildings spans a variety of building types, including high-rises, casinos, multi modal transportation centers, hospitals, and museums. Armin was the lead fire safety consultant on the first LEED platinum museum and first LEED platinum high-rise office building in San Francisco. During his career, Armin has also been involved with testing, consulting, designing, and commissioning of a variety of building fire safety and fire protection systems, including fire sprinkler systems, smoke control, and fire alarm systems.

Armin is experienced with using computer fire and egress modeling and understands the role of such quantitative tools in both prescriptive and performance based codes and standards. He has taught half-day courses on performance-based building fire safety and the application of computer fire modeling.

Mr. Wolski is also a Fulbright Specialist and Grantee recipient. In the Winter of 2012, he was appointed as a visiting lecturer at Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, Madrid Spain covering subjects of Performance Based Fire Safety Design, Tall Buildings and Smoke Control.

Armin Wolski's resume/curriculum vitae.


Carman and Associates Fire Investigation
For cases or projects with a large fire investigation component, Reax Engineering collaborates with ATF Senior Special Agent (retired) Steve Carman. Mr. Carman, owner of Carman and Associates Fire Investigation (Grass Valley, California), is a widely-respected fire expert with more than 20 years of fire investigation experience. He served as a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from 1988 to 2008, during which time he was assigned to the Sacramento and Redding, California offices. He received his certification as an ATF Certified Fire Investigator in 1993 and spent more than nine years as a member of the ATF's Western National Response Team. Special Agent Carman graduated from the US Coast Guard Academy in 1980 with a BS degree with High Honors in Physical Sciences. Prior to joining ATF, he served six years as a Coast Guard officer including two as Commanding Officer (afloat) of the USCG Cutter Cape Jellison. After that he spent two years in the private sector working in chemical and mechanical engineering.

Mr. Carman has investigated several hundred fires with more than 70 fire deaths and average fire losses of more than $1,000,000. He has conducted and led numerous complex arson and explosives investigations in Northern California resulting in many successful federal and state prosecutions. He has lectured internationally on various aspects of fire science and investigation including fire dynamics, fire chemistry, and fire modeling. Due to his scientific background and work with fire chemistry and physics, Mr. Carman has focused much of his work and research towards the study of "unusual" fire behavior and its recognition during investigations. Among his works was the publishing of an ATF monograph in October 1994 detailing his conclusions regarding a nationally puzzling fire phenomenon dubbed "High Temperature Accelerants". In 2004 at the Annual Meeting of the National Fire Protection Association, Special Agent Carman presented his study of the spontaneous ignition of a truckload of ammonium nitrate- containing explosives. His most recent work has revolved around efforts to simplify the understanding of post-flashover fire behavior for the fire investigation community. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Arson Investigators. He is also an adjunct instructor at Cogswell Polytechnic College in California.

Carman and Associates and Reax Engineering provide complementary skills and experience. Together they offer clients a full range of fire expert witness services.

Rapperport and Associates
For cases requiring fire expert witness services related to structural design and analysis, fracture mechanics, fatigue analysis, fractography, and metallurgy, Reax Engineering works closely with fire experts at Rapperport and Associates, our East coast affiliate.

Reax Engineering Inc.
1921 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
Based in the San Francisco
Bay Area but serving clients
across the US and abroad
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