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Building Construction: Sheets of Fire

Look out for hazardous acrylic panel


The corridor walls of this Orange County, Fla., motel are protected from damage by 4'-high acrylic plastic sheeting, but any fire reaching this sheeting would turn the corridor into a tunnel of flame. These types of hazards are not generally recognized, so be on the lookout for them during preplanning. When extinguishing an acrylic fire, use a solid-bore stream and sweep the acrylic area.


Also, federal law requires carpet manufacturers to flame-proof their carpeting, but there’s no real system in place to check for compliance. One corporation took over a carpet manufacturer and learned the manufacturer’s flame-proofing records had been faked, and that there was no way to know where the unprotected carpeting went. The bottom line: Expect to run into carpet that burns. If carpeting ignites, apply a solid stream directly to the fire right through the carpet to the other side.


If you discover an acrylic hazard in your area and the building manager won’t remove it, send the building owner a letter and note the potential for ruinous lawsuits and possible criminal prosecution. Cite the widely known 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire.




Francis (Frank) L. Brannigan, a fireground commander in the 1940s and a fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, was named one of the 20 most influential people in the fire service by Fire Chief Magazine. For 37 years, Brannigan has defined building hazards for firefighters. His book, Building Construction for the Fire Service, Third Edition, is available from the NFPA.

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