December 3, 2008IntroductionThere has been an increase in building fire cases. Such fires cause economic, social and environmental complications. It results to deaths, loss of properties and pollution to the environment. Therefore, the aim of the paper is to analyze four fire incidents that occurred within the past 25 years. It brings into consideration the short comings of the structural design and construction, what caused the fire and other issues that involves engineering weaknesses. Hence, analysis of Airport Terminal Fire, Düsseldorf, Germany, One Meridian Plaza Fire – Pennsylvania – United States, The Windsor Tower Fire – Madrid, Spain and Carcas Tower Fire – Venezuela.
It will bring into consideration weaknesses associated with engineering deficiencies. Airport Terminal Fire, Düsseldorf, GermanyThe fire occurred in the passenger terminal building on April 11, 1996 resulting in the death of 17 people and injuring 62 others. This building was a five level building in which the ground level was used by passengers to pick their language and rental facilities. The first level had a height of 4.6m (15 feet) with the roof of the level having blocks of polystyrene that was three inches thick.
The second level had shops, restaurants and ticket desks. This floor was the same has the first level because it had a length of 1850 feet with height of 30 feet. The third level which was also the mezzanine had the conference rooms, VIP lounges and restaurant. The fourth floor had an observation deck and restaurant while the fifth level had a restaurant (Klaene 2000). The fire started in the expansion plates that were on the lower level of the terminal which was ignited by a welder in the polystyrene insulation that was covering the void below the second level.
Flames and smoke spread upwards to the second level through unprotected escalator openings and the openings that were on the stairwells. Moreover, the smoke spread to the fourth level through the unprotected openings. The fire and smoke destroyed stairwells and the smoke damaged entirely the second and third levels (McNulty 2002.). Engineering IssuesMany issues relating to fire safety were not considered. There were no automatic sprinkler systems; dry pipes were there but no connected to municipal water supply and the lack of smoke detectors.
Moreover, the welders had no adequate precautions during the time of welding. Most openings were unprotected resulting in the fire and smoke spreading to other levels. The presence of the polystyrene, which is combustible insulator, resulted in a lot of smoke. There were no available or convenient openings that allowed for escape. Nevertheless, communication or alarm was no right e. g. wrong messages were sent resulting to many deaths. An example is when people were using the elevators to escape, however, the elevators lead to the death of many passengers.
Alarm timing resulted in firefighters coming 27 minutes after the fire started. Moreover, the alarms send emergency signals to the Airport Fire Brigade rather than the inclusion of Düsseldorf Fire Brigade (Osborne 2004). Lessons LearnedFire resistant mechanisms should have been derived that could have reduced the rate that the fire spread. People should be educated on emergency when it comes to fire issues. For example many people had to use the elevators; this means that posters should have been placed on the right places to inform people on the route to follow when an emergency occurs.
The insulators should have been fire resistant rather than the polystyrene material which caught fire easily.