Raleigh Apartment Fire Lessons
collapse. This type of incident has been
happening across the country. Only a few
of our discussions, however, considered
what would happen in a fire—
notably, the metal structure that holds the
towering unit would experience duress
and likely fail when exposed to high
Division Chief John Fanning, who
responded to the Metropolitan fire, has
researched crane collapses and felt a certain “intuition” to prepare for the worst
in his own city. Little did he know that
he would be using this knowledge in the
Some of the characteristics of the
tower cranes used in Raleigh include the
• They’re designed with counterweights
to offset their expected load.
• The operators are usually in the crane
cab for 10 to 12 hours per shift.
• They are of metal truss type construction and, like most steel metal, are
expected to elongate at approximately
• When not in operation, they freely
rotate when forces, such as wind, are
applied to the hoisting arm. This limits stress on the supporting structural
Those stationed near these heavy
construction areas have been fortunate
to learn some of these facts during calls,
Most of our city is residential or mid-
rise commercial. New construction has
started to spread to areas outside of the
downtown district in recent years.
The tower crane at the Metropolitan
was near the center of the construction site, at a point where it could lift
materials to the wood-frame apartments,
the concrete parking deck, and the
block-constructed stairwell locations.
Building Codes and Fire
The Metropolitan was built to current
codes that allow wood-frame con-
struction with the expectations of fire
safety requirements on completion of
the project or at the time of occupancy.
These standards are common across the
country and include the following:
• National Fire Protection Association 13
fire suppression system.
• Fire alarm system.
• Noncombustible, fire protected
• Fire protecting wall covering, such as
( 4) The twisted remains of a construction crane were visible the morning after; the crane had
collapsed across Harrington Street and onto an industrial building.