How to fight a fire and save the building

2009-07-31 00:00

FOLLOWING criticisms of how the Harwin’s Arcade fire was fought on Wednesday night, The Witness spoke to a firefighting specialist who had some suggestions on how the fire could have been approached. He asked not to be named for professional reasons.

“Trained firefighters would arrive on scene and do a reconnaissance of the area, to locate the seat of the fire and determine the possibility of the fire spreading.” The source said they would take into account the fact that old buildings, like Harwin’s Arcade and even the city hall for instance, are not subdivided into compartments, so the fire could spread easily around the building.

“In modern buildings, bylaws dictate that you have to have a 23-centimetre brick wall dividing sections. Historic buildings don’t have this.”

The source said it was assumed that the fire had started near the staircase at the Timber Street entrance. “Something happened there. They should have isolated it to that area and cut it off from the rest of the building.”

The source told The Witness that he was surprised not to have seen any firemen on scene using breathing apparatus.

“It all comes down to training. They should have gone in and cut it off. Instead, they followed it while it was spreading, just shooting water into the windows from the outside.”

The source said that while it may seem easy to criticise the fire brigade after the fact, he had gone into the building initially, and insisted that the atrium was workable. “They could have walked across the balcony and got the fire. It’s a sad state of affairs.”



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