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Building Fires

An exploration of the history of firesin tall buildings reveals some surprising trends. Surprisingly very few very powerful fires resulted in even partial collapse within the steel and concrete structures. Rather most rebuilding that did occur – was the result of potential metallurgic damage and the implications resulting from this – also the fact that clean up and refitting interiors would, in many cases, be more expensive than rebuilding the entire structure.

It is difficult to clearly analyze and compare many such catastrophic fires – the shape the fires take and the events that unfold within them are as complex as the circumstances that surround their ignition. However – the standardization of construction procedures with an eye to fire safety unanimously results in the uniform resistance to catastrophic structural failure. Our building codes have shown remarkable success in resisting such tragedy. See also the page on Building Code and Fire Safety.

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1945 1931 Empire State Building, New York concrete, steel 3 15
1946 1930 40 Wall Street, New York masonry, steel 1 70
1946 1913 Winecoff Hotel, Atlanta masonry, steel   15
1972 Rault Tower, New Orleans concrete, steel 45
1972 1962 Andraus Building, Sao Paulo concrete, steel 4.5 32
1974 1991 Joelma Building, Sao Paulo concrete, steel 4.5 25
1976 1973 Campbell Shopping Complex, Kuala Lumpur concrete, steel 30 20
1980 1975 MGM Grand Hotel concrete, steel   3 15
1991 1972 One Meridian Plaza, Philadelphia concrete steel 18 38
1988 1973 First Interstate Bank, Los Angeles   3.5 62
1970 1969 One New York Plaza, New York   6.5 50
2004 1979 Parque Central Complex, Venzuela   18 56
2005 1979 Torre Windsor , Madrid Spain reinforced concrete 24 32
2009 2009 The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Beijing   3+ 56
world trade center fire joelma builiding fire sao paulo joelma builiding fire sao paulo
joelma builiding fire sao paulo joelma builiding fire sao paulo joelma builiding fire sao paulo
  joelma builiding fire sao paulo  

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VIDEO: Towering Inferno: The CCTV Building Fire in Beijing.

Note the massive scale of the fire. This is a testament to the ability of steel frame structures to resist fire. No steel frame structure has ever collapsed due to fire.

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INCENDIO: The Story of the 1974 Inferno of the Joelma Building in Sao Paulo Brazil.    
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Skyscraper Fires, Wikipedia

Fire Claims Building at CCTV Beijing Headquarters, Reuters, 2009

High-rise Office Building Fire One Meridian Plaza, FEMA Report

Towering Inferno in Caracas, CBS News

Interstate Bank Building Fire Los Angeles, California

US Gypsum’s Handbook on Fire Rated Assemblies



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