Amend the Building Code?

Amend the Building Code?

Firefighters who realize the hazard of wood truss floors for the first time sometimes react by saying that “they should be legally banned.”

Structures with wood truss floors are not classified as “fire-resistive.” The essence of “fire resistance” is, primarily, resistance to firecaused collapse. Resistance to the passage of fire is a secondary objective, except in the case of columns, which are tested only for collapse resistance. (Note that life safety, property loss, toxic smoke generation, and migration are not considered.)

Since the structures are not required to be fire-resistive, and since resistance to collapse is a primary component of fire resistance, it follows that the structures are entitled to collapse in a fire. The fact that a structure of one design will collapse sooner or later than another is a matter of indifference to those who create the building code, as long as the structure is adequate for its normal use.

Safety of firefighters is not a primary concern—or possibly of any concern—to building code writers. Offhand, I can think of only two provisions of codes directly concerned with firefighter safety. Years ago, every radio required a 100-foot copper wire aerial. In New York these were strung on the flat roofs of tenement houses. When firefighters suffered neck injuries, the code was amended to raise the aerials up to 8 feet. After losses of firefighters in cellar fires, many cities required sprinklers in mercantile cellars larger than a certain area. This is often defeated by “subdividing” the cellar.

It is a universal practice to allow old, combustible, low-density ceiling tile to remain in the void when the new, fire-rated, low-flamespread ceiling is installed. This cost the lives of two firefighters in Michigan. An effort to change the code was defeated. Years ago, New York required an outside control valve with FD key to cut off the flow of gas to a fire building. It was defeated by property owners who were willing to risk lives to avoid spending a few dollars.

There is little or no help to be expected from building codes with respect to safety of firefighters. Our best protection is to be aware of the true hazards, and be suspicious of “sympathy soothing syrup” dosed out bv those who are in the building business.

No posts to display