Distortion of Fact, by Andrew Burfield

Claims 1-10


Claim No:    1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9        10        Front Page


5.      The omission of the fact that fire has never, before or after 9/11, caused steel-frame buildings to collapse (25).


The Report makes no mention of other building collapses due to fire, either before or after 9/11.  Nor does it mention that the collapse of the Twin Towers was unique.



The claim inherent in the allegation is that fire has never, before or after 9/11, caused steel-frame buildings to collapse.



Like the previous claim, this one is easily investigated.


More than a quarter of a million dollars worth of hay has gone up in smoke after an arson attack in the Manawatu.  The fire near Feilding thwarted the best efforts of firefighters and left one man's livelihood in ruins.


The fire on Reid Line West started at just after 2am on Sunday.  At its peak, four fire appliances played a part in attempts to douse the flames.  The river was pumped dry trying to deal with it.  Two army water tankers from Linton were brought in to help as well as another tanker from Palmerston North.  Feilding station officer Glenn Davies says the flames melted the steel shed causing it to collapse onto the bales, limiting the access for firefighters.





Dr Griffin probably didn’t have a $60,000 steel-framed hay barn in mind when he made his statement, but it illustrates an important point about this particular common Conspiracy Theory argument.  The reality is steel buildings have and do collapse due to fire, and steel buildings are vulnerable to collapse from fire.  This is why building codes in all western countries require that steel structural elements are either encased in concrete or coated in fireproofing material.


Conspiracy theorists will often rephrase their claim from “steel building” to “steel high rise” to “steel skyscraper”, evolving to the extreme of “steel skyscraper in North America over 100 stories” or similar.


Using the same flawed logic, one could counter this argument by pointing out that every steel-framed skyscraper that has been intentionally rammed by a Boeing 767 airliner at high speed has suffered a global collapse.


Both the design of the Twin Towers and the events that happened on 9/11 were unique in world history.  Comparing these events to other dissimilar events is misleading and dishonest.


Before looking further into other high-rise fires, it is important to understand the specific events that occurred on 9/11.  The collapse of WTC1 and WTC2 was studied by a government agency called the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The study required a high degree of specialists expertise and involved extensive photo analysis, engineering testing, fire testing, and structural modelling.  A study of the collapses was far outside the mandate and expertise of the 9/11 Commission.


The NIST Report on the collapse of WTC1 and WTC2 is enormous – totally about 10,000 pages when all of the technical supporting documents are included.  All of their papers, including draft reports, can be accessed from their website.




It is important to take note, for this and later claims made by Dr Griffin, that the 9/11 Commission Report was released over a year before NIST released their final report on the collapse of WTC1 and WTC2.  NIST’s study into the collapse of WTC7 is ongoing, with a final report expected to be released in 2007.


The first important aspect to investigate is NIST’s explanation for the cause of the collapse.  The NIST Report is a large and complex document to study, however they have also provided a more accessible series of frequently asked questions.


Some 200 technical experts—including about 85 career NIST experts and 125 leading experts from the private sector and academia—reviewed tens of thousands of documents, interviewed more than 1,000 people, reviewed 7,000 segments of video footage and 7,000 photographs, analyzed 236 pieces of steel from the wreckage, performed laboratory tests and sophisticated computer simulations of the sequence of events that occurred from the moment the aircraft struck the towers until they began to collapse. 


Based on this comprehensive investigation, NIST concluded that the WTC towers collapsed because: (1) the impact of the planes severed and damaged support columns, dislodged fireproofing insulation coating the steel floor trusses and steel columns, and widely dispersed jet fuel over multiple floors; and (2) the subsequent unusually large jet-fuel ignited multi-floor fires (which reached temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius) significantly weakened the floors and columns with dislodged fireproofing to the point where floors sagged and pulled inward on the perimeter columns. This led to the inward bowing of the perimeter columns and failure of the south face of WTC 1 and the east face of WTC 2, initiating the collapse of each of the towers. Both photographic and video evidence—as well as accounts from the New York Police Department aviation unit during a half-hour period prior to collapse—support this sequence for each tower.




When considering Dr Griffin’s claim, it is important to note the key aspects of the collapse – impact causing structural damage and dislodging fireproofing, jet fuel dispersed over multiple floors, sagging floor trusses, and inward-bowing perimeter columns.


All of these are factors specific to the aircraft-impact event and the unique design of the towers.  In looking at other examples of skyscraper fires, it is important to ask if these same characteristics were present.  The answer, in all cases, is no.


In regard to performance of multi-story steel-framed structures in fires, it is worth investigating the worst industrial fire in history.  On May 10, 1993 a small fire at the Kader Industrial (Thailand) Co. Ltd. Factory spread rapidly to engulf three four storey buildings, claiming the lives of 188 workers.


This fire is a stark demonstration of how steel structural elements perform when not protected from exposure to fire.


The fire spread rapidly throughout Building One, and the upper floors soon became untenable. The blaze blocked the stairwell at the south end of the building, so most of the workers rushed to the north stairwell. This meant that approximately 1,100 people were trying to leave the third and fourth floors through a single stairwell.

The first fire apparatus arrived at
4:40 p.m., their response time having been extended because of the relatively remote location of the facility and the gridlock conditions typical of Bangkok traffic. Arriving fire-fighters found Building One heavily involved in flames and already beginning to collapse, with people jumping from the third and fourth floors.

Despite the fire-fighters' efforts, Building One collapsed completely at approximately 5:14 p.m. Fanned by strong winds blowing toward the north, the blaze spread quickly into Buildings Two and Three before the fire brigade could effectively defend them. Building Two reportedly collapsed at
5:30 p.m., and Building Three at 6:05 p.m.




This isn’t the only example of steel structures failing due to fire, even without the addition of a 767 impact.


On January 16, 1967 a fire started in the McCormick Place exhibition hall in Chicago.


The fire spread was very rapid due to the lack of compartmentalization, the large amount of fuel, and lack of means of suppression. The unprotected steel roof trusses failed early on in the fire due to the same factors.




January 28, 1997 and another fire in another steel building:


On the morning of January 28, 1997, in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania township of Strasburg, a fire caused the collapse of the state-of-the-art, seven year old Sight and Sound Theater and resulted in structural damage to most of the connecting buildings.  The theater was a total loss, valued at over $15 million.




Conspiracy Theorists ignore these events, preferring to highlight other incidents.  The most common incident cited by Conspiracy Theorists is the Windsor Tower fire which gutted the 32 storey building in Madrid, Spain on February 12, 2005.  Although the building was totally destroyed by the fires it remained standing until it was torn down.


Most obviously, the Windsor Tower was not hit by a 767, and in fact did not suffer any structural damage prior to the fire starting.  None of its fireproofing material was stripped off, and the fires started on one floor before spreading, rather than being started on multiple floors simultaneously as a result of spilled jet fuel.


The differences do not end there.  Dr Griffin’s primary contention is that fire has not caused steel-framed buildings to collapse.  However the Windsor Tower was not a steel framed building.


The building totalled 32 storeys, with 29 floors above ground and three below. A concrete core and concrete frame supported the first 16 floors. Above that was a central support system of concrete columns, supporting concrete floors with steel perimeter columns. An additional feature was the presence of two 'technical floors' - concrete floors designed to give the building more strength. One was just above the ground level and the other at the 17th floor.


Furthermore, Dr Griffin’s assertion would suggest that the elements of the Windsor Tower that were steel would not have collapsed.  Not true.


The steel columns above the 17th floor suffered complete collapse, partially coming to rest on the upper technical floor.




The reality – that fire causes steel structures to collapse, is illustrated clearly by post-fire photos of the Windsor Tower such as this one:





The inherent claim that fire has never, before or after 9/11, caused steel-frame buildings to collapse is rejected.


Claim No: 6 ->