Monday, August 08, 2005

Fahrenheit 2777: "The temperature at which steel burns..."

Madrid, Spain...

February 13, 2005...


Madrid alert after skyscraper fire


February 14, 2005

Posted: 6:02 AM EST (1102 GMT)

MADRID, Spain -- The area surrounding a burned-out Madrid skyscraper remained cordoned off Monday amid concern the blackened hulk of wreckage could collapse.

As many as 100 firefighters worked 24 hours to extinguish the blaze in the city's eighth-tallest building, the 32-story Windsor Tower. The fire was said to be the worst in Madrid's history.

"Don't Fall Down," read Monday's front-page headline on the free newspaper Que given to morning subway and bus commuters.

The office tower was heavily damaged but did not collapse as feared.

"The situation is still critical," Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told The Associated Press.

Officials say the building is unstable and have closed the area surrounding it, in a move that could affect several thousand employees in the city's financial district.

Cars will be routed to neighboring streets, subway lines under or near the damaged building will remain shut down, and adjacent office towers will remain closed by order of the mayor, AP reported.

El Corte Ingles, Spain's signature department store, remained closed Monday and told its 2,000 employees to stay home.

"What worries us now is its structural state because of the high temperatures it was subjected to," Merardo Tudelo, director of the Madrid Municipal Firefighters, told reporters shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday (2000 GMT).

By Sunday evening, flames were no longer visible, though gray smoke and ash stoked by gusts of wind continued to pour from the blackened shell of the building.

Hours earlier, several top floors collapsed onto lower ones. Firefighter official Fernando Munilla expressed concern that the entire building -- which at about 106 meters (350 feet) high is among the 10 tallest in Madrid -- could collapse.

"If the partial collapses keep happening, it would be lying to say it's impossible that the whole building couldn't fall down," he said.

Emergency crews at the scene said firefighters were waiting for the temperature inside the building to drop, which they said would lessen the danger of collapse.

At their peak, temperatures reached 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 Fahrenheit), said Javier Sanz, head of Madrid's firefighters.

The fire left seven people slightly injured, according to AP reports.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero visited the site and said, "I wanted to thank all those people who have been working since early in the morning: firefighters, police, and all those who have thrown themselves in to help in this catastrophe."

Thousands of onlookers lined streets barred to traffic.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire. Magdalena Alvarez, minister of development, said a short circuit may have started the fire, but it would be investigated.

Authorities said there was no reason to believe the fire was an act of terrorism.

The building was almost empty when the first alarm went off. Only one of the seven firefighters who suffered smoke inhalation remained hospitalized Sunday, Gallardon told AP.

Construction of the shiny gold Windsor Building began in 1973 and was completed in 1979. It became a landmark structure in Madrid's business district.

The building was surrounded with scaffolding because of recent repairs, and a huge crane remained perched on its roof.

CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman contributed to this report.


Yahoo! News

Madrid to dismantle fire-gutted skyscraper


February 17, 2005

MADRID (Reuters) - A 32-storey Madrid skyscraper gutted by the biggest blaze in the city's history will be taken apart piece by piece from the outside because it is too dangerous to enter, a townhall official says.

Madrid's eighth tallest building was reduced to a blackened concrete skeleton at the weekend when a fire that lit up the night sky like a huge torch devoured the 106-metre-high building from the top down.

"Given the seriousness and extent of the damage ... the adoption of any security measure to avoid new collapses would be totally useless," urban affairs councillor Pilar Martinez said on Thursday.

"As a result it will be declared a ruin and (we will proceed with) its complete demolition," she added.

A system of cranes will be set up to allow the charred remains, in the heart of the city's financial district, to be picked apart from outside.

"It can't be done from inside because of the state of the building, so the cranes will have to be outside and (workers) will cut it apart piece by piece and bring it down."

Video of Windsor Building fire - 1.9 MB RealMedia video download





13 September, 2001

12:59 GMT 13:59 UK

How the World Trade Center fell

By BBC News Online's Sheila Barter

The design of the World Trade Center saved thousands of lives by standing for well over an hour after the planes crashed into its twin towers, say structural engineers.

"It was the fire that killed the buildings - nothing on Earth could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning." - Structural engineer Chris Wise

But the towers' ultimate collapse was inevitable, as the steel cores inside them reached temperatures of 800C - raising questions as to why hundreds of rescue workers were sent into the doomed buildings to their deaths.

The steel and concrete structures performed amazingly well, said John Knapton, professor in structural engineering at Newcastle University, UK.

"I believe tens of thousands of lives have been saved by the structural integrity of the buildings," he told BBC News Online.

"They had a lot of their structure taken out, yet they remained intact for more than an hour, allowing thousands to escape."



Basic Information

Name: Iron
Symbol: Fe
Atomic Number: 26
Atomic Mass: 55.845 amu

Melting Point: 1535.0 °C (1808.15 °K, 2795.0 °F)

Boiling Point: 2750.0 °C (3023.15 °K, 4982.0 °F)
Number of Protons/Electrons: 26
Number of Neutrons: 30
Classification: Transition Metal
Crystal Structure: Cubic
Density @ 293 K: 7.86 g/cm3
Color: Silvery


I try not to think about that.

I try not to think about a petroleum fire burning for 104 minutes, just getting hotter and hotter until it reached 1538 degrees Celsius (2800 Fahrenheit) and melted the steel (steel is about 99% iron; for melting points of iron and steel see:, or

(Celsius/Fahrenheit conversion tool at

I try not to wonder how the fire reached temperatures that only bottled oxygen or forced air can produce.

And I try not to think about all the steel that was in that building — 200,000 tons of it...

(for WTC statistics see or

I try to forget that heating steel is like pouring syrup onto a plate: you can't get it to stack up. The heat just flows out to the colder parts of the steel, cooling off the part you are trying to warm up. If you pour it on hard enough and fast enough, you can get the syrup to stack up a little bit. And with very high heat brought on very fast, you can heat up one part of a steel object, but the heat will quickly spread out and the hot part will cool off soon after you stop.

Am I to believe that the fire burned for 104 minutes in the north tower, gradually heating the 200,000 tons of steel supports like a blacksmith's forge, with the heat flowing throughout the skeleton of the tower? If the collapse was due to heated steel, the experts should be able to tell us how many thousands of tons of steel were heated to melting temperature in 104 minutes and how much fuel would be required to produce that much heat. Can a single Boeing 767 carry that much fuel?

Thankfully, I found this note on the BBC web page

( or "Fire reaches 800 [degrees] C — hot enough to melt steel floor supports."

That is one of the things I warned you about: In the 20th Century, steel melted at 1535 degrees Celsius (2795 F)


but in the 21st Century, it melts at 800 degrees C (1472 F).

This might be explained as a reporter's mistake — 800 to 900 C is the temperature for forging wrought iron. As soft as wrought iron is, of course, it would never be used for structural steel in a landmark skyscraper.

(Descriptions of cast iron, wrought iron, steel, and relevant temperatures discussed at or

But then lower down, the BBC page repeats the 800 C number in bold, and the article emphasizes that the information comes from Chris Wise, "Structural Engineer." Would this professional individual permit himself to be misquoted in a global publication?




Tod Rittenhouse: Why the World Trade Center collapsed

September 13, 2001

Posted: 4:06 PM EDT (2006 GMT)

Tod Rittenhouse is an expert in blast engineering from the international consulting engineering firm Weidlinger Associates and has been the blast engineer for a number of embassies and government buildings. He has been called to discuss such problems as the Oklahoma City bombing and the previous World Trade Center calamity.

CNN: Welcome to our discussion, Mr. Rittenhouse. We're pleased to have you with us today.

RITTENHOUSE: I'm glad to be here and hopefully can answer some of your questions.

CNN: When you learned about the airplane hits and saw the pictures, what did you think about the structural soundness of the World Trade Center buildings?

RITTENHOUSE: When the event first occurred, naturally we all wondered how sound the building would be given the structure. We were concerned about the damage and in getting the people out in time before some type of collapse occurred. Like most people, I did not want to believe that a complete collapse could occur. But these were large bombs, strategically placed -- the bomb being the airplane and the placement being in a vulnerable spot in the building. The port authority has worked to secure the perimeter around the base of the building so the only way to attack the building is at a higher elevation -- such as an air attack.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Can you explain why the buildings collapsed?

RITTENHOUSE: The exterior structure is comprised of columns. The vertical load bearing members and the horizontal elements called "beams." When the plane impacted the building, it severely damaged those exterior columns. The following fire further damaged the support columns. So it was a two step event; initial damage by plane and further damage or subsequent loss of structural stability that caused the building to fail.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Was it due to the structural engineering that the building collapsed relatively straight down?

RITTENHOUSE: There are two reasons why it fell straight down. One is the structural engineering --how it was designed. And how it fell is really a phenomenon. The other reason is because the impact zone was so high up in the building that the weight of the uppermost floors fell onto the impact zone. Had the impact zone been lower in the building, the structure may have fallen in a tree-like effect, rather than crushing down on itself.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I am amazed the buildings didn't collapse immediately when the planes crashed into them. Is this more or less unique for these two buildings?

RITTENHOUSE: No. They are very big buildings. They were carrying a lot of weight. And so the structure was acting as it was designed. In most buildings, you might be able to lose a column and have the building remain standing for a period of time. But given the structure of these buildings, and that is called a "tube structure," the remaining structural elements were able to carry the load. A tube structure building is like a garbage can, very rigid around the outside but once the damage starts, it is very easy to crush it. And this time that time to crush, that is, the time to achieve structural instability, was about an hour.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you think the towers could have withstood the plane crashes if the fire hadn't burned so hot and so long?

RITTENHOUSE: Very difficult question. I think that if the fireball was not so great, that they could have contained the fire. Fires are meant to be fought in localized areas. In other words, if a fire breaks out in a 15th floor, the sprinklers will go off on the 15th and 16th floors and so on, up the building as required to fight local fire. However in this case, there were fires located on 15 to 20 different floors. So there was never enough water to arrest the fire to prevent structural instability.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What can you tell us about the escape routes for people in a high rise building such at WTC? How safe is it really to be in the upper levels of such a tall building during an emergency?

RITTENHOUSE: The emergency egress requirements are well thought out. And every building has an emergency egress plan. The time to egress the WTC, for example, is approximately two hours. And that is why we have requirements to fireproof buildings for one or two hours to allow orderly egress. Had the building collapse occurred two to four hours after the initial event, they would have been able to evacuate everybody.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are the water systems enough or do we need another fire suppression system in such buildings as well?

RITTENHOUSE: For a conventional fire, these water systems should be enough. This was not a conventional fire. Other systems have been investigated but have been recalled because of other health risks. So the current water deployment system may be the best we have. Perhaps we need more water.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: How many other buildings may collapse? And do we know yet how many buildings will have to be demolished when all is said and done?

RITTENHOUSE: It is impossible to know how many buildings will need to be razed rather than rehabilitated. There are engineers from the Structural Engineering Association of New York (SEAONY) as well as other local engineering firms, such as my own, that have volunteered to inspect buildings and determine if they are safe for rescue personnel and subsequent tenants.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What, specifically, would cause surrounding buildings to collapse?

RITTENHOUSE: Damage from the various events. Damage from aircraft parts, the fireball explosion, the building falling itself, causing damage to other buildings, the ground shaking, and potentially high winds could now cause other buildings to fall.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Why can't we determine if more folks are alive within the structure? How long before we get to the folks?

RITTENHOUSE: It could take a very long time. You have to be concerned about the stability of the neighboring buildings. We don't want them to fall on rescue people. You have to be concerned that removing rubble doesn't collapse on air pockets below where victims might be. You have to be careful that vibrations from machinery do not cause further failures. So many of the rescue efforts are being done by hand and small tools to quickly get to victims.

In Mexico City, there was once an earthquake where up to eight days later, they found survivors, many of them infants, located in the hospital. So there is a good chance that people who are located may still found, though it is a dim chance. That area of Manhattan has many underground tunnels where people could be. We just need to get to them.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: There must be multiple basements under the towers. Is it possible that people have fallen into the basements with debris on top of them?

RITTENHOUSE: Yes, there are many utility tunnels, subway tunnels, below grade and several, maybe as many as seven basement levels. So there is a strong possibility that if they can get to them, they will be people there. Unfortunately there is a lot of debris and now water circulating as they fight the fires. So it is possible that these void places where people are located could be filling with water.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Tod, I keep looking at ground zero and my mind cannot fathom how two 110-story buildings are reduced to nearly ground level. How is that possible, that such massive buildings are now nearly gone?

RITTENHOUSE: It's partly because of the type of structure. I'm sure a lot of it has filled the hole that was the basement. It is as surprising to me as well, but had they fallen over, it would have caused greater damage and far many more deaths.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?

RITTENHOUSE: This has been a terrible tragedy for many many people. I have been pleased at how people have united to help in their own way either rescue workers, or fellow engineers, or individuals who are lining the streets with thank you cards to show appreciation to the rescue workers. I hope that we can rebuild.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Tod Rittenhouse.

RITTENHOUSE: Great... If I can be of any help, please contact me. Our Web site is:

Tod Rittenhouse joined via telephone. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Thursday, September 13, 2001.




Trade Center architect discusses buildings

September 12, 2001

Posted: 5:11 PM EDT (2111 GMT)

(CNN) -- When they were completed in the early 1970s, the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center were the tallest buildings in the world. That designation didn't last long -- Chicago's Sears Tower took the title in 1974, a year after Two World Trade Center was finished -- but the buildings' standing as a New York City landmark, anchors amid the office-tower canyons of Manhattan's financial district, remained unchallenged.

Tuesday, the buildings -- daytime home of more than 50,000 workers -- were destroyed when two hijacked passenger jets were flown into the structures.

CNN's Leon Harris spoke with Aaron Swirsky, part of the architectural team led by World Trade Center chief architect Minoru Yamasaki, on the way the building was designed.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: So many of us had thought for so long that the Twin Towers were invincible. We had heard for so many times over the years that the buildings have been built to withstand an impact from the crash of a plane.

Let's talk right now on the telephone with Aaron Swirsky. He's in Jerusalem. He was one of the original architects of the complex, as I understand it.

Is that the case, Mr. Swirsky?

AARON SWIRSKY, ARCHITECT: I was working with Minoru Yamasaki, who is the architect of the building. But I was one of the workers with him. We were a team of 14 architects, and I was one of the members of the team.

HARRIS: As a member of the team, and having such insight to how this building was constructed, could you believe that a plane could bring these buildings down?

SWIRSKY: No, as a matter of fact, one of the rationales of the structure of the building was that it would be built as a pipe. And that proved itself to work during the explosion of 1993, when a hole was brought into the building, and it survived. But somehow, nobody could foresee anything like (Tuesday's incident).

Also, at that time, the planes were not like these types of planes that we have now. I think the biggest plane was a 100-passenger plane, something like that, and the fuel capacity of those planes was not like they are today.

The criterion was that if a plane hits, it would go right through it. And nobody could foresee something like that. The tower was protected in such a way that the damage would be limited to one story, but it wouldn't travel to the other stories.

HARRIS: The planes that crashed yesterday were much bigger than that. They were 757s.

SWIRSKY: And also the fuel capacity is much more tremendous.

HARRIS: Exactly. That's what I want to ask you about. Which was it that made the biggest difference? Was it the impact felt from the larger plane, or was it the heat generated by the burning and that much fuel.

SWIRSKY: I imagine, when I saw the pictures of the implosion of the building, it looks like the fuel must have leaked right to the core of the building, and from there it was the massive explosion that caused the building to collapse. So it was something completely unforeseen, so far as the design criteria was (concerned).

HARRIS: Let me ask one final question, if I may. Considering what you know about the building -- you say it was constructed like a pipe, these two buildings -- and the manner in which we saw them collapse, does that give you any hope at all that the way it collapsed, there will be more packets inside, at the bottom, where survivors could be found?

SWIRSKY: Well, I sure hope so. We pray that there will be survivors and that this won't happen again. It's a terrible, terrible, incredible tragedy.



Design architecture was provided by Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, and Emery Roth & Sons served as the architect of record. Since these companies have nothing to hide, they should provide the architectural plans of the WTC to the world, so that any misunderstandings regarding the facts of the collapse, may be established. In fact, Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, and Roth & Sons, or their descendent companies, should put the entire set of architectural plans on the internet. Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, Robertson were the project structural engineers; Jaros, Baum & Bolles were the mechanical engineers; and Joseph R. Loring & Associates were the electrical engineers. The Port Authority provided design services for site utilities, foundations, basement retaining walls, and paving. Ground breaking for construction was on August 5, 1966. Steel construction began in August 1968. First tenant occupancy of WTC 1 was in December 1970, and occupancy of WTC 2 began in January 1972. Ribbon cutting was on April 4, 1973.



WTC Construction Manager: Towers Were Designed to Take Numerous Plane Crashes

Prison Planet | November 14 2004

Frank A. DeMartini, Manager, WTC Construction and Project Management, discusses the fact that the WTC towers were designed to take multiple hits from airliners and not collapse, comparing it to poking a pencil through fly netting, DeMartini was adament that the towers would not collapse. DeMartini died in the towers on 9/11, this interview clip was taken from video shot in January 2001.

This clip is taken from Anthony Hilder's documentary, 9/11: The Greatest Lie Ever Sold, which is available by subscribing at



Other Skyscraper Fires

Fires Have Never Caused Skyscrapers to Collapse

Excepting the three 9-11 collapses, no fire, however severe, has ever caused a steel framed high-rise building to collapse. Following are examples of high-rise fires that were far more severe than those in WTC 1 and 2, and Building 7. In these precedents, the fires consumed multiple floors, produced extensive window breakage, exhibited large areas of emergent flames, and went on for several hours. The fires in the WTC towers did none of these things.

The One Meridian Plaza Fire

One Meridian Plaza is a 38-floor skyscraper in Philadelphia that suffered a severe fire on February 23, 1991. The fire starting on the 22nd floor, and raged for 18 hours, gutting eight floors and causing an estimated $100 million in direct property loss. It was later described by Philadelphia officials as "the most significant fire in this century".

The fire caused window breakage, cracking of granite, and failures of spandrel panel connections. 4 Despite the severity and duration of the fire, as evidenced by the damage the building sustained, no part of the building collapsed.

The First Interstate Bank Fire

The First Interstate Bank Building is a 62-story skyscraper in Los Angeles that suffered the worst high-rise fire in the city's history. From the late evening of May 4, 1988 through the early morning of the next day, 64 fire companies battled the blaze, which lasted for 3 1/2 hours. The fire caused extensive window breakage, which complicated firefighting efforts. Large flames jutted out of the building during the blaze. Firefighting efforts resulted in massive water damage to floors below the fire, and the fire gutted offices from the 12th to the 16th floor, and caused extensive smoke damage to floors above. The fire caused an estimated $200 million in direct property loss.

A report by Iklim Ltd. describes the structural damage from the fire: In spite of the total burnout of four and a half floors, there was no damage to the main structural members and only minor damage to one secondary beam and a small number of floor pans.

The 1 New York Plaza Fire

1 New York Plaza is a 50-story office tower less than a mile from the World Trade Center site. It suffered a severe fire and explosion on August 5, 1970. The fire started around 6 PM, and burned for more than 6 hours.

Caracas Tower Fire

The tallest skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela experienced a severe fire on October 17, 2004. The blaze began on the 34th floor and spread to over 26 floors, and burned for more than 17 hours. Heat from the fires prevented firefighters from reaching the upper floors, and smoke injured 40 firefighters.

The Windsor Building Fire

The most recent case of a severe high-rise fire is the one that destroyed the Windsor Building in Madrid, Spain on February 12, 2005. The Windsor fire was more severe than any of the other fires described on this page, and the incident has been widely publicized, with comparisons to the fires in the three World Trade Center skyscrapers on 9/11/01. However, the Windsor Building, unlike all the buildings mentioned above, was framed in steel-reinforced concrete rather than steel. Hence it is described on a separate page, which notes differences between the response of these different types of structures to fires.



Madrid, Spain...

February 13, 2005...

New York, New York...

September 11, 2001...