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Interstate Bank Building Fire;

THE FIRE

The fire originated in an open-plan office area in the southeast quadrant of the 12th floor. (See Appendix A.) The area of origin contained modular office furniture with numerous personal computers and terminals used by securities trading personnel. The cause is thought to be electrical in origin, but the precise source of ignition was not determined. The fire extended to the entire open area and several office enclosures to fully involve the 12th floor, except for the passenger elevator lobby, which was protected by automatic closing fire doors.

The fire extended to floors above, primarily via the outer walls of the building; windows broke and flames penetrated behind the spandrel panels around the ends of the floor slabs. The curtain wall construction creates separations between the end of the floor slab and the exterior curtain wall. (For a discussion of this type of fire spread see NFPA Fire Journal, May/June 1988, pages 75-84.)

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.

 
Time
Damage and Fire
22:22
Two fire pumps were shut down by 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.
22:25
Glass failing was heard and light smoke was seen at the ceiling level by the sprinkler contractor. An alarm on the 5th floor was pulled and after sounding for 2 seconds went dead.

22:30

A smoke detector on the 12th floor was activated but reset by security personnel
22:32
3 smoke detectors on the 12th floor were activated and again reset by security personnel
22:34
4 smoke detectors on the 12th floor were activated and reset
22:36
Multiple smoke detector alarms from the 12th to 30th floors activated. A maintenance worker took the service elevator to the 12th floor to investigate the source of the alarms. The worker died when the lift door opened onto a burning lobby on the 12th floor.
22:37
Fire brigade was contacted by persons outside the tower, reporting a fire on the upper floors
22:40
Fire brigade arrived and found that the entire east side and there-fourths of the south side of the 12th floor fully involved with fire
22:41
First report of the fire from inside the building
22:49
Fire had spread upwards to the 13th and 14th floors
23:10
Fire brigade started to fight the fire
01:30
The 15th floor was fully engulfed in fire and the north end of the 16th floor started to burn due to the fire through the space between the external cladding and the floor
02:19
The fire was officially declared as put out
 
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