Firefighters Face Difficult Challenges with Older SD Home Construction

A type of construction common in the early 20th century poses unique problems for firefighters: balloon-frame construction, which was the type of building that reportedly was the scene of a December house fire killed that killed three children in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Most [of these homes] were built before 1930,” Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Jim Sideras told a reporter for the Argus Leader ( “The difficulty they pose is there are no fire stops in the wall. Once fire is in the main floor wall, it literally goes up to the attic. You can have problems in the basement and the attic at the exact same time. Fire spreads much more rapidly through those homes. We pretty much know when we go to certain areas of town, we might have balloon-frame construction.”

The presence of lath-and-plaster walls with wood paneling in such homes can also contribute potentially volatile fuel to a fire than is seen in many modern homes, said South Dakota Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Doug Hinkle.

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For more on this type of construction, consider Fighting Fires in Balloon -Frame Construction, Preplanning Building Hazards, and ROOF VENTILATION AT ATTIC FIRES.

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