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Interstate Bank Building Fire;

INITIAL STAGES

At 2222 on the night of the fire, the buildings two fire pumps were shut down by the sprinkler contractor, and the combination standpipe system was drained down to the 58th floor level to facilitate connecting the new sprinkler system to the standpipe at that level. Three minutes later, at 2225, employees of the sprinkler system contractor heard glass falling and saw light smoke at the ceiling level on the 5th floor. A manual alarm was pulled but sounded for only a few seconds. It is believed that the alarm was silenced by security personnel on the ground floor.

At 2230, a smoke detector on the 12th floor was activated and was reset by security personnel. At 2232, three additional smoke detectors on the 12th floor were activated and were again reset by security personnel. At 2234, four smoke detectors on the 12th floor were activated and reset.There was heavy exposure of flames to the windows on successive floors as the fire extended upward from the 12th to 16th floors. The flames were estimated to be lapping 30 feet up the face of the building. The curtain walls, including windows, spandrel panels, and mullions, were almost completely destroyed by the fire. There were no "eyebrows" to stop the exterior vertical spread, and fireground commanders were concerned about the possibility of the fire "lapping" higher to involve additional floors.

 

Minor fire extension also occurred via poke-through penetrations for electricity and communications, via HVAC shafts, and via heat conduction through the floor slabs. A minor fire occurred in a storeroom on the 27th floor, ignited by fire products escaping from an HVAC shaft that originated on the 12th floor. This fire self-extinguished due to oxygen deficiency, but could have greatly complicated the situation if it had continued to burn. The secondary extensions were minor compared to the perimeter fire spread at the curtain walls.

The fire extended at a rate estimated at 45 minutes per floor and burned intensely for approximately 90 minutes on each level. This resulted in two floors being heavily involved at any point during the fire. The upward extension was stopped at the 16th floor level, after completely destroying four and one-half floors of the building.

 

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