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Indianapolis Athletic Club Fire-Fire Protection

The building was not equipped with automatic sprinklers. A
standpipe for occupant use (Class II according to NFPA 14, Standpipe and
Hose Systems) was provided. A single 6-inch riser supplied one hose
station on each floor from the basement through the fifth floor. Above the
5th floor the water supply split into two 4-inch risers to supply hose outlets
on each floor. The mechanical penthouse had a single hose station
supplied from one of the 4-inch standpipe risers.
Each hose station was equipped with 100 feet of 1 1/2-inch singlejacketed
linen fire hose and a plastic variable stream fog nozzle. Hose
outlets consisted of national pipe standard threaded connections, not
national standard fire hose thread as specified by NFPA 1963, Screw
Threads and Gaskets for Fire Hose Connections. As a result, firefighters
were unable to connect their hoses directly to the standpipe outlets.
During their initial attack, firefighters extended the occupant use hose line
with 50 feet of their own hose, but the line disconnected when it was
charged and they were forced to rely solely on the occupant use hose for
the initial attack on the fire.
The primary water supply for the standpipe was provided through a
6-inch domestic service line. Pressure for the upper floors was boosted by
two electric pumps, which were not listed or approved for fire protection
service. A single fire department connection located at the northeast
comer of the building provided two 2 1/2-inch hose inlets to supplement the
water supply for the standpipe risers. The standpipe system appeared to be
well maintained and in good condition at the time of the fire.
Fire Alarm and Detection
The building had a manual fire alarm system and two separate
smoke detection systems covering different areas. The only smoke detector
on the third floor, where the fire originated, was in the elevator lobby and
was not connected to the fire alarm system. The elevator lobby smoke
detectors were single-station devices that were installed solely to activate
the elevator recall feature and did not start the alarm.4
NFPA 72-(90), Section 3-733 requires that smoke detectors used to
initiate elevator recall also activate the building fire alarm signals.

Fire Separation and Compartmentation
Although the building construction closely resembled Type 1 fireresistive
construction, floor-to-floor and area separation was generally nonexistent.
Vertical and horizontal communication between areas, including
areas with different uses, was common throughout the building. As noted
below, some stairways and vertical shafts were open on one or more floor
levels. These conditions contributed to smoke and fire spread beyond the
area of origin, especially during fire control efforts.
Interior Finishes
Combustible interior finish materials were installed extensively
throughout the third and fourth floor areas that were damaged by the fire.
Combustible ceiling tiles and plywood paneling installed on furring strips
contributed to the severe flash fire which occurred during firefighting
At the time of construction, most of the areas involved in the fire
had smooth or decorative plaster ceilings. Decorative wood and leaded
glass fixtures were installed in ceilings in the special function areas,
including the large dining room. In succeeding years, 1-foot by 1-foot
composite ceiling tiles were glued to the underside of the plaster ceiling in
many areas to hide defects. Sometime later, a new suspended track ceiling
was installed below the plaster ceiling to hide other defects and
accommodate new lighting fixtures. The ceiling tile materials used in both
of these systems were combustible, however, the flame spread ratings could
not readily be determined.
Like the ceilings, wall coverings had been successively replaced and
modified. In the bar and McHale Rooms, 1/8-inch plywood paneling was
installed on l-inch by 3-inch furring strips. In corridors and the
monumental stair leading from the lobby to the third floor, foil-backed
vinyl wall coverings had been installed. The plywood paneling was labeled
to indicate it had been tested in accordance with ASTM E84, Test of
Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials and had a flame spread
index rating of 150. The Uniform Building Code requires that interior finish
material covering fire-resistive or noncombustible assemblies be attached
directly to the assembly? Installing the paneling on furring strips instead
of directly attaching it to the wall surface could be expected to significantly
increase the material’s flame spread index rating.

Most floor surfaces were covered with carpeting. Tile or other
resilient floor coverings were used in service spaces and some high traffic
areas including stairs, some corridors, bar backs, and restrooms. Floor
coverings did not appear to contribute significantly to the fire.


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