Fire Prevention & Protection

THE DANGERS OF LIGHTWEIGHT STEEL CONSTRUCTION

Issue 6 and Volume 159.

BY KARL K. THOMPSON This catastrophic collapse of a three-story, single-family residential structure (photo 1) is just one more example of the dangers lightweight construction poses for firefighters. Tactical time frames may need to be reevaluated when fighting fires in lightweight steel-framed buildings. This L-shaped home catastrophically collapsed without warning in an early-morning fire about 10 to 15 minutes after the fire extended into the second floor. The cause of this collapse was a complete failure of the structural lightweight cold-formed steel studs, joists, and trusses. As with most “new” construction methods, the fire service is behind the power curve until we have had a few actual fires and use them as case studies to evaluate the performance of building materials and methods. (1) This is what remains of a lightweight steel-frame, three-story, single-family residential structure after a catastrophic collapse. [Photos by J. Shepherd, district chief, Brevard County (FL) Fire…

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