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.
Among 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
Did 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 tall.
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
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 its
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.
The 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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