I just saw an article in the Preston Blog, about a fire in a block of student apartments that was contained by a closed and latched fire door assembly in a fire barrier. These photos from the Preston Fire Department accompanied the article, and clearly show the effects of the fire on one side of the door, while the non-fire side is unscathed:
This article reminded me of a recent call from a hardware consultant, who was writing a specification for a college dormitory. In order to improve interaction and communication between students in the dorm, the architect had requested a code modification to omit the door closers from the fire door assemblies so the students could leave the doors open. And the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) approved the request.
This is a very delicate situation. Personally, I disagree with this code modification, especially since there are products available that would allow the students to leave their doors open under normal conditions but would close and latch the doors during a fire alarm. The intent is for the fire door assembly to help compartmentalize the building and deter the spread of smoke and flames; a door in the open position provides no protection. But the hardware consultant’s job is to serve the architect, and it’s always best to avoid opposing the AHJ if possible.
Photos: Preston Fire Department