Other Buildings

Do Not Collapse

Really?

I stand in awe of this statement. I simply cannot believe that any person in their right mind would claim that it is impossible for flame-engulfed steel-framed high rises to collapse.

Yet there it is. It cannot be denied. Richard Gage and his fellow theorists at AE911Truth think that it is impossible for steel-frame high rises to collapse due to fire. Is there any other way to interpret this statement?

Apparently they do, and they offer as evidence the four buildings in this slide. They have also seized upon the recent example of another fire in Beijing. However, a closer look at  the specific circumstances surrounding each of these fires shows exactly why they did not fall when the WTC buildings did.

East Tower, Caracas, Venezuela — October 2004

The East Tower of Caracas’ Parque Central building complex caught fire in the early morning of October 18th, 2004.

The crucial differences between this building and the WTC buildings:

  • The East Tower was a reinforced concrete structure, not simply a steel-framed building at all. This meant it would respond differently from the WTC buildings to fire.
  • The East Tower suffered no structural damage at the onset of the fire. It had the full benefit of its structural design working to redistribute shifting loads. (It should be said that WTC 7 did not fall because of its damage. The damage only affected the way that building fell.)
  • The fire was always in “one place”. It may have been on several floors, but the fire moved as a whole through the building. The WTC buildings had fires on many different floors.
  • The lower floors of the East Tower were never on fire. The fire started on the 34th floor and went up to the 44th. This means that the weight of the building above the fire’s lowest point was considerably less than that of 7 World Trade. The Twin Towers only had fires on the upper floors, but AE911Truth concedes the manner of their destruction is so different as to create an entirely new category of “controlled demolition” for them.
  • The East Tower had a radically different design from any of the WTC buildings. 7 World Trade had much of its gravity-bearing capacity in its core, and all lateral loads were redistributed into the core as well. The Twin Towers used its core for the larger part of gravity loads, but the perimeter columns also dealt with this as well as all lateral loads. However, the East Tower has no core at all. All of its support is in four separate units on each face of the building. The building is further reinforced by concrete “macroslabs” on the 14th, 26th, 38th, and 49th floors. “In effect,” says the link, “the concrete structure includes five stacked steel buildings, each supported by a (concrete) macroslab.”
  • The fires were fought all throughout the burning of the East Tower. The first call about the fire was at 12:05 am. By 1:15 am, firefighters were able to slow the fire considerably with one 2-inch line and two 1-inch lines. By 3 am, a second 2-inch line was added, and the fire was contained to three or four floors. Only at 7 o’clock, when some booster pumps malfunctioned, did the fire “(regain) intensity, spreading vertically at a rate of about one floor per hour until approximately 10” am. At 11, the fire chief abandoned interior firefighting efforts due to safety concerns, and the fire spread at the rate of 2 1/2 floors per hour during the afternoon.

First Interstate Bank, Los Angeles, USA — May 1988

The First Interstate Bank Building in Los Angeles burned for 3 1/2 hours during the late evening and early morning of May 4th and 5th, 1988. Of all the buildings, this one is the closest in design to the towers and to 7 World Trade (although not exactly the same, of course). It is a steel-framed tube-in-tube design.

The crucial differences:

  • The fire was quickly extinguished by Los Angeles first responders. The catalog of the team available in LA is remarkable. The Venezuelan authorities didn’t have a third of the people available in Los Angeles. As a result, the LA responders choked their fire to death in under four hours, half the burning time of 7 World Trade.
  • In Los Angeles, the First Interstate was their only priority. The immense scale of tasks for 9/11 first responders was part of the reason the 7 World Trade fire was never fought there.
  • There were no water equipment and pressure problems in Los Angeles. The inability to get water to WTC 7 was another factor in its abandonment.
  • The First Interstate Bank suffered no structural damage at the onset of the fire. It had the full benefit of its structural design working to redistribute shifting loads.
  • The fire was always in “one place”. It may have been on several floors, but the fire moved as a whole through the building. 7 World Trade had fires on many different floors.
  • No more than two floors were ever on fire at the same time. Fires were reported throughout the structure of 7 World Trade. The First Interstate fire only spread to 4 1/2 floors during its entire short burn.

One Meridian Plaza, Philadelphia, USA — February 1991

One Meridian Plaza burned in Philadelphia on February 23-24, 1991. Eight floors of this 38-floor structure were consumed in the 19+ hour burn.

The crucial differences:

  • The building had a significant structural difference from the WTC buildings. Although it was steel-framed and a tube-in-tube structure, one side of the internal “tube” was adjacent to the exterior wall.
  • One Meridian Plaza suffered no structural damage at the onset of the fire. It had the full benefit of its structural design working to redistribute shifting loads.
  • The fire was always in “one place”. It may have been on several floors, but the fire moved as a whole through the building. 7 World Trade had fires on many different floors.
  • The fire was only in the upper floors of the building. It started on floor 22 and worked its way to the 30th. The full weight of the building was never concentrated on the fire zones, as in WTC 7.
  • The fire was fought throughout its burn by a dedicated team. This building was the only priority of the team, but a power failure forced internal fire supression to be conducted by handlight alone.
  • Operational sprinklers finally stopped this fire. Inoperable sprinklers did allow this fire to burn, but a separate system on the 30th floor was the final trump card.

One New York Plaza, New York City, USA — August 1970

One New York Plaza caught fire on August 5, 1970, Four of its 50 stories were burned out in the six hour fire, and the building suffered minor structural damage.

The crucial differences:

  • The building had a concrete-reinforced core, making it significantly different in fire response from the WTC buildings.
  • One New York Plaza suffered no structural damage at the onset of the fire. It had the full benefit of its structural design working to redistribute shifting loads.
  • The fire was always in “one place”. It may have been on several floors, but the fire moved as a whole through the building. 7 World Trade had fires on many different floors.
  • The fire was only in the upper floors of the building. It started on floor 33 and worked its way through floors 32-36. The full weight of the building was never concentrated on the fire zones, as in WTC 7.
  • The fire was fought through its burn by dedicated first responders.

Mandarin Oriental, Beijing, China – February 2009

The Mandarin Oriental building in Beijing, China caught fire at 8:27 p.m. on the evening of February 9, 2009, burning until early the next morning.

The crucial differences:

  • The building had a concrete-reinforced structure, making it significantly different in fire response from the WTC buildings. It was also designed to withstand the frequent earthquakes suffered by Beijing.
  • The Mandarin Oriental suffered no structural damage at the onset of the fire. It had the full benefit of its structural design working to redistribute shifting loads. (Apparently, however, the flammable materials that would have been covered with fire-retardant materials were still exposed in this structure.)
  • The building was fought through its burn by dedicated first responders. They were finally able to get control over the fire by midnight, extinguishing it completely by 2:20 a.m.
  • The building was designed and built following an extensive study of the WTC collapses by its designer, ARUP (pdf) . The lessons learned informed the design of this building, and it appears the lessons were well applied.

The Towers And These Buildings

Clearly there is no fruitful comparison that Richard Gage can make between these buildings and the WTC buildings. Together, those five buildings point out just why fires can cause steel-framed high rises to collapse and why the fires in them are so desperately fought.

But what about the towers? The North Tower only burned an hour and a half before it fell, and the South Tower took a brief 45 minutes. Those fires stayed localized to a few floors, just as the buildings above. How could it be that such brief, contained fires brought down this buildings so quickly that first responders had barely enough time to ascend to the lowest floor that was on fire?

The answers demonstrate again why the Towers must be seen as different altogether from the four buildings cited by Gage:

  • The fires were never fought by any means in either building. The task of simply arriving at the floors proved to be too much for first responders to accomplish before the towers had fallen.
  • The fires were started over several floors simultaneously. Office buildings are designed to resist a slow-moving fire in one location. Fires were started in the WTC Towers simultaneously over several floors and over immense areas of these floors. And the floors, by the way, were the size of city blocks. Pictures show this fires burning entire lengths of the building in places.
  • The fires were ignited with jet fuel as an accelerant. A large portion of jet fuel was consumed in the initial fireball on impact, but hundreds of gallons were left to help feed the fires in their first few minutes. The pictures you might have seen of weak or non-existent fires in these buildings were taken in the first few moments, when the fireball had robbed the fires of much oxygen. The heat energy remained, however, and as oxygen returned through the immense holes left by the airplanes, the fires found plenty of jet fuel to reignite and start the massive office fires that resulted.

Because of these massive fires, the buildings’ fire-resistant design could not compensate and the buildings collapsed. The Titanic sank because the collision with the iceberg ripped apart too many of the ship’s segments that were designed to keep the ship afloat in just such an emergency. A similar thing happened to both WTC towers. The intense fires caused the floor trusses to sag and pull the perimeter columns into the building. Eventually, the perimeter columns failed. The buildings could no longer compensate for this final outrage and the collapses began.

Compare this, again, to the First Interstate fire. That fire was on the lower floors, quickly accessed by firefighters both internally and from surrounding buildings. A massive effort by an undistracted firefighting force was quickly underway. The fire was not started with an accelerant and was only on a couple of floors. And the building, only 62 stories high, had a footprint much smaller than the WTC towers. So the fires that burned over an entire floor were still smaller by far than the WTC tower fires.

Therefore, the brevity of the WTC tower fires is compensated for by their intensity, and calling these fires contained is an illusion that can only be maintained by not understanding just how large these buildings were. As shocking as it may seem, the Towers were doomed when the fires ignited. Only a firefighting effort instantly begun with unlimited resources could have fought down those fires and perhaps kept them up long enough to rescue more people. However, real life does not give us a “God” cheat code.

World Trade Center 7’s Unrecognized Design Flaw

It’s not well known, but NIST did four different runs of their Building 7 computer modeling. One was done, of course, with all the available evidence of damage and fires that could be gleaned from the videos and pictures of the building. The building, of course, fell down.

They then did a second run where all damage data was applied, but a lesser degree of fire damage was. The building did not fall down.

Next was a run where all fire data was applied, but none of the damage was. The building fell down (though in a different manner than the first run).

Finally they did a run where the building was left intact and no fire information was applied. They then removed a small part of Column 79, just between the 11th and 13th floor, and sat back to watch how the building would react.

It fell down. In the words of NIST, this demonstrates that “WTC 7 was prone to classic progressive collapse associated with the local failure of Column 79.” (NCSTAR 1-A, p. 42 (pdf 84))

Perhaps these other five buildings have design flaws of their own. WTC 7’s is demonstrated in the NIST modeling.

Think Of This Human Effort

What does all of this say about the level of competence in people throughout the architectural, engineering, civic, and emergency response communities that so many skyscrapers have never had severe fire problems? There’s a reason why skyscrapers aren’t built in places remote from these factors. Sound building design, skilled construction, watchful building codes, and alert, dedicated first responders have combined forces across this globe to ensure that these buildings have not wreaked utter havoc in our cities.

There are exceptions, of course, but this is true for the most part. We as a species have been incredibly thoughtful and lucky to have had such success in modern building design.

Yet on 9/11, three buildings slipped through this elaborate safety net. Their designs and construction were kneecapped by severe, even catastrophic damage. Their fire protection systems were overwhelmed by unimaginable fires. Their protectors were unable to reach them either because of distance or priority.

And so they fell. The fact that never before or since in human history have buildings like these fallen is not a weapon to accuse anybody of foul play other than the zealots who crashed two planes into the Twin Towers. It is rather a testament to our ingenuity, our dedication, and our mortality.