Fair Lawn, NJ, January 4, 2002-Bill Manning, Fire Engineering's
editor in chief, is summoning members of the fire service to "A Call to
Action." In his January 2002 Editor's Opinion, "$elling Out the
Investigation" (below), he warns that unless there
is a full-blown investigation by an independent panel established
solely for that purpose, "the World Trade Center fire and collapse will
amount to paper- and computer-generated hypotheticals." Manning
explained: "Clearly, there are burning questions that need answers ....
The lessons about the buildings' design and behavior in this
extraordinary event must be learned and applied in the real world."
In an interview with the New York Daily News
today, Manning reiterated his call for a "full-throttle, fully
resourced" investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center.
He is asking members of the fire service to read "WTC 'Investigation'? A Call to Action" in the January 2002 issue of Fire Engineering and at fireengineering.com
and to contact their representatives in Congress and officials in
Washington to ask that a blue ribbon panel be convened to thoroughly
investigate the WTC collapse.
those also calling for the investigation are Sally Regenhard, the
mother of Christian Regenhard, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
probationary firefighter killed in the World Trade Center (WTC) attack,
and founder of the Campaign for Skyscraper Safety; Give Your Voice, a
civilian relatives' group headed by Michael Cartier, who lost his
brother in the collapse; prominent structural engineers and fire-safety
experts, and New York State Senators Charles Schumer and Senator
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
$elling Out the Investigation
By Bill Manning
they throw away the locked doors from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire? Did
they throw away the gas can used at the Happyland Social Club Fire? Did
they cast aside the pressure-regulating valves at the Meridian Plaza
Fire? Of course not. But essentially, that's what they're doing at the
World Trade Center.
For more than three months, structural steel
from the World Trade Center has been and continues to be cut up and
sold for scrap. Crucial evidence that could answer many questions about
high-rise building design practices and performance under fire
conditions is on the slow boat to China, perhaps never to be seen again
in America until you buy your next car.
Such destruction of evidence shows the
astounding ignorance of government officials to the value of a
thorough, scientific investigation of the largest fire-induced collapse
in world history. I have combed through our national standard for fire
investigation, NFPA 921, but nowhere in it does one find an exemption
allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories
Hoping beyond hope, I have called experts to
ask if the towers were the only high-rise buildings in America of
lightweight, center-core construction. No such luck. I made other calls
asking if these were the only buildings in America with light-density,
sprayed-on fireproofing. Again, no luck-they were two of thousands that
fit the description.
Comprehensive disaster investigations mean
increased safety. They mean positive change. NASA knows it. The NTSB
knows it. Does FEMA know it?
No. Fire Engineering has good reason to
believe that the "official investigation" blessed by FEMA and run by
the American Society of Civil Engineers is a half-baked farce that may
already have been commandeered by political forces whose primary
interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure. Except
for the marginal benefit obtained from a three-day, visual walk-through
of evidence sites conducted by ASCE investigation committee members-
described by one close source as a "tourist trip"-no one's checking the
evidence for anything.
Maybe we should live and work in planes.
That way, if disaster strikes, we will at least be sure that a thorough
investigation will help find ways to increase safety for our survivors.
As things now stand and if they continue in
such fashion, the investigation into the World Trade Center fire and
collapse will amount to paper- and computer-generated hypotheticals.
However, respected members of the fire
protection engineering community are beginning to raise red flags, and
a resonating theory has emerged: The structural damage from the planes
and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not enough to
bring down the towers. Rather, theory has it, the subsequent contents
fires attacking the questionably fireproofed lightweight trusses and
load-bearing columns directly caused the collapses in an alarmingly
short time. Of course, in light of there being no real evidence thus
far produced, this could remain just unexplored theory.
The frequency of published and unpublished
reports raising questions about the steel fireproofing and other fire
protection elements in the buildings, as well as their design and
construction, is on the rise. The builders and owners of the World
Trade Center property, the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey, a
governmental agency that operates in an accountability vacuum beyond
the reach of local fire and building codes, has denied charges that the
buildings' fire protection or construction components were substandard
but has refused to cooperate with requests for documentation supporting
Some citizens are taking to the streets to
protest the investigation sellout. Sally Regenhard, for one, wants to
know why and how the building fell as it did upon her unfortunate son
Christian, an FDNY probationary firefighter. And so do we.
Clearly, there are burning questions that
need answers. Based on the incident's magnitude alone, a full-throttle,
fully resourced, forensic investigation is imperative. More important,
from a moral standpoint, for the safety of present and future
generations who live and work in tall buildings-and for firefighters,
always first in and last out-the lessons about the buildings' design
and behavior in this extraordinary event must be learned and applied in
the real world.
To treat the September 11 incident any differently would be the height of stupidity and ignorance.
The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately.
federal government must scrap the current setup and commission a fully
resourced blue ribbon panel to conduct a clean and thorough
investigation of the fire and collapse, leaving no stones unturned.
Firefighters, this is your call to action. Visit WTC "Investigation"?: A Call to Action, then contact your representatives in Congress and officials in Washington and help us correct this problem immediately.
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