Fighting fires in high rise buildings.(High Rise Fires)

Current firefighting forces have no effective response to the scale, altitude and rate of destruction characterised by the World Trade Center attacks. However, the technology exists to enable the rapid deployment of equipment and delivery of sufficient media to control a future similar incident before the structure suffers catastrophic failure. Under the proposals, deployment of the force will be totally independent of the incident scene and local infrastructure, and its purchase and operating costs will be well within acceptable bounds in relation to the value of the property and the number of lives at risk. The challenges, proposed solutions, costs and implications inherent in responding to this threat are discussed in this and the following two issues of FIRE magazine.


The events of September 11, 2001 brought home the vulnerability of high rise buildings to major fires in their upper storeys. Although the terrorist acts were extreme in their conception and execution, they should not be dismissed as a unique event, There is every reason to suppose that repeat stunts will be tried against other high profile targets, and similar circumstances could also result from accidental mishaps with no malicious intent.

In view of the likelihood that, either through hostile intent or accident, there will be future occasions when major fires occur in high rise buildings, it is incumbent on the firefighting profession to identify a viable response to such incidents.

Currently, there is an enormous gap between the heights of the largest buildings commonly found in major cities around the world and the maximum reach of ground based firefighting and escape facilities.

To date, this omission has been allowed to persist through the assumption that fires in the upper storeys of such buildings can be fought internally with the buildings' own facilities. The fallacy of this supposition was tragically proven by the events of September 11. The sight of New York fire fighters setting out to climb the stairs to the scenes of fires with hoses over their shoulders is etched on the mind with the other memories of that terrible day. …

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