Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Allegion
Email: lori_greene@allegion.com, Blog: www.idighardware.com or www.ihatehardware.com


Nov 30 2012

A Closed Door – The Best Ally in a Home Fire

Category: Fire Doors,NewsLori @ 4:35 pm Comments (2)
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I know I just posted some news stories a few days ago, but Zeke Wolfskehl sent another one that I have to share.  It appeared in the New York Times on November 27th.  Considering how difficult it is to make people understand the value of their fire doors and why they should be kept in working order, I think this article does a great job of illustrating the importance.

It describes a fire in the reporter’s NYC apartment building, in which an elderly resident living in the apartment of fire origin did not survive.  The closed door to the victim’s apartment played an important role in protecting the corridor, exit stairs, and the other building occupants.  But the article also mentions another fatal fire in 1998, in the apartment of actor Macaulay Culkin’s family.  A mat was used to prop open the apartment door, and the stair door was open as well.  Four people died in one of the stairwells, almost 10 floors above the fire.  The families of the victims filed lawsuits against the owner of the apartment for more than $100 million because her actions, including leaving the door propped open, were perceived to be responsible for the deaths.

As I was reading about the 1998 fire, I found another fatal NYC apartment fire, also in 1998 – 17 Vandalia Avenue in Brooklyn.  Three firefighters were killed when they were overcome by smoke, gas, and flames due in part to a partially open door and impacted by air-flow from within the apartment.  Much of the research initiated by these high-rise apartments is focused on the affects of the wind on the progression of the fire, but the position of the apartment door makes a big difference in the firefighters’ ability to control the fire and protect firefighters in the corridor.

Here is the recent New York Times article (followed by articles about the other NYC apartment fires I mentioned).  Share it with anyone you know who would benefit from understanding the purpose of a fire door, and you could save a life!

A Closed Door – The Best Ally in a Home Fire – Jim Dwyer, New York Times

Death by fire was once a scourge in the city, killing someone, on average, nearly every day through the 1960s and 1970s. So far this year, 47 people have died in residential fires, a pace that would mean the fewest number of such deaths since New York City began keeping reliable counts early in the 20th century.

Today, smoke kills most people who die at fires because modern building materials and design can often contain the flames to a single room — if the door is closed.

Culkin’s Mom Hit With 80m Suit In Fire – NY Daily News

The lawsuit alleges that the 44-year-old mother of seven left the door to her apartment ajar as she fled with her children. As a result, smoke spread rapidly into the hallway and the stairwells of the 51-story structure.

“Had she closed her apartment door, the fire could have been contained to that area,” said Lawrence Wilson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, who also include real estate broker Lisa Percansky, 36, and her sister Romy, 27, a student. Both suffered smoke inhalation.

5-5-5-5 7 Days Before Xmas 1998 – FDNewYork.com

“Fortunately for the elderly resident she escaped shortly before the forcible entry team arrived. Unfortunately for them, she left the apartment door wide open. The additional oxygen from the hallway fed the inferno within and blew out the windows. The halls were equipped with sprinklers but for reasons unknown to anyone is why they were deactivated.”

FDNY Brooklyn Box 4080: 17 Vandalia Avenue 12.18.98 – CommandSafety.com

From the information obtained during this investigation, it is believed the victims found the fire apartment, with the door partially opened, allowing smoke and hot gases to enter the hallway. They then opened the door fully, the wind pushed the fire and extreme heat in the apartment into the hallway, and a flashover occurred, exposing the victims to extreme radiant heat that potentially elevated their body core temperature. The last radio transmission from the victims was a Mayday call. When the victims were found, all were unresponsive, they were treated at the scene and taken to the hospital where they were pronounced dead by the attending physician.

Here’s another story involving a NYC apartment fire, from the New York City Fire Department, and a report on Operational Aspects of High Rise Firefighting with additional examples.

2 Responses to “A Closed Door – The Best Ally in a Home Fire”

  1. paul baril ahc/cdc says:

    One of my earliest experiences with doors in a fire occured on a fire at a bingo hall. The fire was a slow smouldering fire located in a far corner near a stage. The fire smouldered for days before it flashed across the ceiling. There were no smoke or heat detectors. The fire was quickly put out. At the opposite end of the hall were two bathrooms with solid plastic toilet partitions. The doors to the bathrooms were the cheapest, 1 3/8″ hollow core cores you could buy. The mens room door was closed during the fire and the womens was open. The mens room looked untouched, the womens room looked like someone had thrown a molotov cocktail into the room. The plastic stalls had melted like a candle and dripped and puddled onto the floor. The difference in the two rooms because of one closed hollow core doors has always stayed with me. I insist that EVERY door in my own building is closed every nite.

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