Fires in buildings: Case studies of four different scenariosFires occur in almost all kind of buildings, which could happen to be high-rise buildings, commercial premises such as retail shops and factories, and homes, or any building irrespective of the design or material of construction. Whichever the case, all fires fall under four main category namely class A fires, class B fires, class C fires, class D fires. Class A fires are caused by solid organic materials such as paper, cloth, wood, plastics or rubber. On the other hand, class B fires are as a result of flammable liquids which are mostly petroleum products while class C fires are related with electricity.
Fires resulting form flammable metals like sodium, aluminum, titanium and magnesium are grouped as class D fires. Fires are a menace and throughout history they have been responsible for the loss of many lives and destruction of properties. Therefore, fire occurrences are important in any part of the world and safety measures should be designed to curb outbreak of fires. This discourse will entail an analysis of the 2005 Windsor Tower fire in Spain, the fire that gutted the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attack, the Manezh Hall fire in Russia and the 2002 Cowgate fire in Scotland. The Madrid’s Windsor Tower fire of 2005The Windsor Tower also known as the Torre Windsor or Edificio Windsor was a concrete 32-floor building that collapsed after a fire broke out on the 12th of February 2005 in Madrid, Spain.
A heavily concrete reinforced building, the Edificio Windsor failed to withstand an apparently class C fire. However, it is worth to note that the actual cause of the fire has not yet been established due to the fact that the “break-out floor” collapsed (University of Manchester). The fire begun at about 23:00 hours at the 21st floor, and spread upwards to all the other floors within a period of one hour then begun spreading gradually downwards up to the third floor.
It lasted about eighteen to twenty hours before it was put under control. The entire building was burnt to the extent that it could not be repaired. Fig. 1: South-west view showing the situation of the collapsing Windsor towers (University of Manchester)There are several factors that led to the rapid spread of the fire in building floors.
Besides the use of ineffective measures for fire fighting, the floors design contributed a great deal; they were open with an area of about one thousand square meters. In addition, effective measures for vertical sectioning in floor openings and the façade system measures were lacking. According to National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management (2005), the corroding effects of the fire coupled with the crumpling of the bare steel perimeter in numerous floors allowed for the floors slabs on top of the seventeenth floor to collapse.
It is worth to note that floors below the seventeenth floor were protected with fire proof material and after the fire they did not collapse. However, the ninth and fifteenth floor, which had not been protected buckled, but did not result to structural collapse of the floors. The concrete reinforced columns, central core, transfer constructions and waffle slabs stood this severe fire. Furthermore, the structural integrity the building gave it the general stability.