This research deals with the experimental determination of the heat release rate (HRR) of fires in mechanically ventilated compartments based on oxygen consumption (OC) and carbon dioxide generation (CDG) calorimetry. It proposes formulations for fire in force-ventilated compartments on the same basis as the relations established for hood calorimetry in an open atmosphere but considering inertia and unsteady behavior of the fire via the time variation mass of O2 and CO2 in the compartment. The value of the new formulations of HRR has been tested in two series of propane gas fire experiments performed in a large-scale facility. The first series involves a fire scenario with one compartment, and the second series, a fire scenario with three compartments connected to each other by doorways. In the first test series, the OC and CDG formulations for HRR are assessed. In the second test series, the OC and CDG formulations are presented with two approaches to definition of the control volume: approach involving three rooms and the flow rate in the ventilation network and approach involving only the fire room and the flow rate through the doorways. On the basis of the fire experiments considered, the most accurate method (accuracy to within 10%) for determining the HRR is the CDG formulation with approach for the control volume without considering the flow rates at the doorways. This analysis points out the different features of each method (OC and CDG) and thoroughly discusses their advantages and drawbacks. The overall analysis allows guidelines to be formulated for fire HRR calculation in confined and ventilated compartments. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.