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
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
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
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 contentions.
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
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
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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