Eyewitness Accounts of WTC 7 Fires


Main 9/11 Links Page

Finding 2.25: The fire alarm system that was monitoring WTC 7 sent to the monitoring company only one signal (at 10:00:52 a.m. shortly after the collapse of WTC 2) indicating a fire condition in the building on September 11, 2001. This signal did not contain any specific information about the location of the fire within the building. [The alarm had been set to “test” mode due to maintenance work] http://wtc.nist.gov/progress_report_june04/chapter1.pdf (pg28)

Once the fires developed, according to witness accounts and photo evidence gathered in the NIST investigation, there were confirmed fires on at least 16 floors: 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 29, and 30.

"The building was fully involved in fire." – Photographer Steve Spak

"I had a clear view down Washington Street of Building Seven, which was on the north edge of the site. All forty-seven stories were on fire. It was wild. The MPs said the building was going to collapse. I said, "Nah, I don't know." And then all of a sudden I watched the building shake like an earthquake hit it, and the building came down." –Ground Zero Superintendant Charlie Vitchers (Glenn Stout, Charles Vitchers, and Robert Gray. Nine Months at Ground Zero. Scribner, 2006 15-16) Note: Vitchers may have only seen the building from the north side. There may not have been visible fires on most floors there. His quote is included to show how impressive the scene was.

First responder accounts

Unless otherwise noted, accounts are from the FDNY oral history transcripts.

1. We walked over by number Seven World Trade Center as it was burning and saw this 40-plus story building with fire on nearly all floors. –FDNY Lieutenant Robert Larocco

2. ...Just when you thought it was over, you're walking by this building and you're hearing this building creak and fully involved in flames. It's like, is it coming down next? Sure enough, about a half an hour later it came down. –FDNY Lieutenant James McGlynn

3. I walked out and I got to Vesey and West, where I reported to Frank [Cruthers]. He said, we’re moving the command post over this way, that building’s coming down. At this point, the fire was going virtually on every floor, heavy fire and smoke that really wasn’t bothering us when we were searching because it was being pushed southeast and we were a little bit west of that. I remember standing just where West and Vesey start to rise toward the entrance we were using in the World Financial Center. There were a couple of guys standing with me and a couple of guys right at the intersection, and we were trying to back them up – and here goes 7. It started to come down and now people were starting to run. –FDNY Deputy Chief Nick Visconti http://www.firehouse.com/terrorist/911/magazine/gz/visconti.html

4. All morning I was watching 7 World Trade burn, which we couldn't do anything about because it was so much chaos looking for missing members. –Firefighter Marcel Klaes

5. When the building came down it was completely involved in fire, all forty-seven stories.
–FDNY Assistant Chief Harry Myers (Smith, Dennis, 2002. Report From Ground Zero: The Heroic Story of the Rescuers at the World Trade Center. New York: Penguin Putnam. p. 160)

6. The concern there again, it was later in the afternoon, 2, 2:30, like I said. The fear then was Seven. Seven was free burning. Search had been made of 7 already from what they said so they had us back up to that point where we were waiting for 7 to come down to operate from the north back down. –Captain Robert Sohmer http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/20050812_WTC_GRAPHIC/9110472.PDF

7. Then we had to move because the Duane Reade, they said, wasn't safe because building 7 was really roaring. –FDNY Chief Medical Officer Kerry Kelly.

8. At this point Seven World Trade was going heavy, and they weren't letting anybody get too close. Everybody was expecting that to come down. –Firefighter Vincent Massa

9. Chief Cruthers told me that they had formed another command post up on Chambers Street. At this point there were a couple of floors burning on Seven World Trade Center. Chief McNally wanted to try and put that fire out, and he was trying to coordinate with the command post up on Chambers Street. This is after searching for a while. He had me running back and forth trying to get companies to go into Seven World Trade Center. His radio didn't seem to be working right either because he had me relaying information back and forth and Chief Cruthers had me --

Q. So everything was face-to-face? Nothing was by radio?

A. Yeah, and it was really in disarray. It really was in complete disarray. We never really got an operation going at Seven World Trade Center. –FDNY Captain Michael Donovan

10. Building #7 was still actively burning and at that time we were advised by a NYFD Chief that building #7 was burning out of control and imminent collapse was probable. –PAPD P.O. Edward McQuade http://www.thememoryhole.org/911/pa-transcripts/pa-police-reports02.pdf page 48.

11. At Vesey St. and West St., I could see that 7 WTC was ablaze and damaged, along with other buildings. –M. DeFilippis, PAPD P.O. http://www.thememoryhole.org/911/pa-transcripts/pa-police-reports03.pdf page 49

[Note: the fires in 7 were probably not mainly due to damage from the south tower, but from the north.]
12. So yeah then we just stayed on Vesey until building Seven came down. There was nothing we could do. The flames were coming out of every window of that building from the explosion of the south tower. So then building Seven came down. When that started coming down you heard that pancaking sound again everyone jumped up and starts.

Q: Why was building Seven on fire? Was that flaming debris from tower two, from tower two that fell onto that building and lit it on fire?

A: Correct. Because it really got going, that building Seven, saw it late in the day and like the first Seven floors were on fire. It looked like heavy fire on seven floors. It was fully engulfed, that whole building. There were pieces of tower two [sic: he probably means tower one] in building Seven and the corners of the building missing and what-not. But just looking up at it from ground level however many stories -- it was 40 some odd -- you could see the flames going straight through from one side of the building to the other, that’s an entire block. –Firefighter Tiernach Cassidy

13. "We were down about a block from the base of the World Trade Center towers about an hour ago. And there was a great deal of concern at that time, the firemen said building number 7 was going to collapse, building number five was in danger of collapsing. And there's so little they can do to try to fight the fires in these buildings, because the fires are so massive. And so much of the buildings continues to fall into the street. When you're down there, Dan, you hear smaller secondary explosions going off every 15 or 20 minutes, and so it's an extremely dangerous place to be."
–CBS-TV News Reporter Vince DeMentri http://terrorize.dk/911/witnesses/911.wtc.secondary.explosions.wmv

14. Well, they said that's (7) fully involved at this time. This was a fully involved building. I said, all right, they're not coming for us for a while. Now you're trapped in this rubble, and you're trying to get a grasp of an idea of what's going on there. I heard on the handy talky that we are now fighting a 40-story building fully involved.

Now you're trapped in the rubble and the guys who are there are fighting the worst high-rise fire in the history of New York or history of the world, probably, I don't know, 40, story building fully involved, I guess that was probably the worst.

I was, needless to say, scared to death that something else was going to fall on us, that this building was going to come down and we were all going to die, after surviving the worst of it. [Note: I deleted the link this account, and searching the net for the text doesn’t turn up anything. This sounds like an account from north tower stairwell B survivor. Anyone who knows for sure, let me know.]

15. And 7 World Trade was burning up at the time. We could see it. ... the fire at 7 World Trade was working its way from the front of the building northbound to the back of the building. There was no way there could be water put on it, because there was no water in the area. –Firefighter Eugene Kelty Jr.

16. The time was approximately 11a.m. Both of the WTC towers were collapsed and the streets were covered with debris. Building #7 was still standing but burning. ...We spoke to with a FDNY Chief who has his men holed up in the US Post Office building. He informed us that the fires in building 7 were uncontrollable and that its collapse was imminent. There were no fires inside the loading dock (of 7) at this time but we could hear explosions deep inside. –PAPD P.O. William Connors http://www.thememoryhole.org/911/pa-transcripts/pa-police-reports04.pdf page 69

17. "There's number Seven World Trade. That's the OEM bunker." We had a snicker about that. We looked over, and it's engulfed in flames and starting to collapse.

We're kind of caught in traffic and people and things, and everything's going on. We hear over the fire portable, "Everybody evacuate the site. It's going to collapse." Mark Steffens starts yelling, "Get out of here! Get out of here! Get out of here! We've got to go! We've got to go! It's going to collapse." I turned around, and I piped up real loud and said, "Stay in the frigging car. Roll the windows up. It's pancake collapsing. We'll be fine. The debris will quit and the cloud will come through. Just stay in the car." We pulled the car over, turned around and just watched it pancake. We had a dust cloud but nothing like it was before. –Paramedic Louis Cook

(Building 7 fire makes rescuer of NT stairwell victim’s route impassable, just before collapse):
I remember it was bad and I'm going to get to a point where we came back that way on the way up. We couldn't even go that way, that's how bad the fire was, but by the time I was coming back it was rolling, more than a couple of floors, just fully involved, rolling.

...So now it's us 4 and we are walking towards it and I remember it would have at one point been an easier path to go towards our right, but being building 7 -- that must have been building 7 I'm guessing with that fire, we decided to stay away from that because things were just crackling, falling and whatnot. So as I’m going back, that fire that was on my right is now on my left. I’m backtracking and that fire is really going and on the hike towards there, we put down our masks, which at this point started to realize maybe it would have been good thing if we had this mask on the way back, but then again between the fire and about halfway when I was on the way back, I got a radio call from the guys that we left and it was Johnny Colon the chauffeur of 43, who was effecting a different rescue. He was carrying somebody out.

He had called me and said “Hey Jerry don’t try and get back out the way you went in which was big heads up move because he said that building was rolling on top of the building that we were passing. That building was on fire and likely to collapse more too.

Between Picciotto asking me are you sure we can get out this way because it really didn’t look good with that fire and my guy telling me that you better not because of the area we crawled in was unattainable now too. ...we started going back the other way.

Q: Would that be towards West Street?

A: That would have been back towards what I know is the Winter Garden....[west]
–Firefighter Gerard Suden

18. I remember Chief Hayden saying to me, "We have a six-story building over there, a seven-story building, fully involved." At that time he said, "7 has got fire on several floors." He said, "We've got a ten-story over there, another ten-story over there, a six-story over there, a 13-story over there." He just looked at me and said, "Fuck 'em all. Let 'em burn." He said, "Just tell the guys to keep looking for guys. Just keep looking for the brothers. We've got people trapped. We've got to get them out." –Lieutenant William Ryan

19. I walked around the building to get back to the command post and that's when they were waiting for 7 World Trade Center to come down. ...They had three floors of fire on three separate floors, probably 10, 11 and 15 it looked like, just burning merrily. It was pretty amazing, you know, it's the afternoon in lower Manhattan, a major high-rise is burning, and they said 'we know.' –FDNY Chief Thomas McCarthy

20. We were champing at the bit," says WCBS-TV reporter Vince DeMentri of his decision to sneak behind police barricades and report from 7 World Trade Center a half-hour before it collapsed. "I knew the story was in there." But after he and his cameraman slipped past officers, they lost all sense of direction. "From outside this zone, you could figure out where everything was," he says. "But inside, it was all destruction and blown-out buildings, and we had no clue. I walked into one building, but I had no idea where I was. The windows were all blown out. Computers, desks, furniture, and people's possessions were strewn all over." He found a picture of a little girl lying in the rubble. Then he realized that No. 7, aflame, was about fifteen to twenty feet ahead of him. "I looked up Barclay Street," he says. "There was nobody out. No bodies, no injured. Nobody. There were mounds of burning debris. It was like opening a broiler." http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/sept11/features/5183/index.html

21. They are worried that number 7 is burning and they are talking about not ceasing operations.
–Deputy Commissioner Frank Gribbon

22. There were hundreds of firefighters waiting to -- they were waiting for 7 World Trade Center to come down as it was on fire. It was too dangerous to go in and fight the fire. –Assistant Commissioner James Drury

23. We assisted some FDNY personnel who were beginning to attempt to fight the fire at 7 WTC. We assisted in dragging hose they needed to bring water into the building. –Kenneth Kohlmann PAPD P.O. http://www.thememoryhole.org/911/pa-transcripts/pa-police-reports04.pdf page 26

24. My first thoughts when I came down a little further into the site, south of Chambers Street, was, "Where am I?" I didn't recognize it. Obviously, the towers were gone. The only thing that remained standing was a section of the Vista Hotel. Building 7 was on fire. That was ready to come down. –Charlie Vitchers, Ground Zero Superintendent http://www.pbs.org/americarebuilds/profiles/profiles_vitchers_t.html

25. The whole south side of Seven World Trade had been hit by the collapse of the second Tower, and there was fire on every floor." – Fire Captain Brenda Berkman (Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, Women at Ground Zero, 2002, p. 213)

26. At that point, Seven World Trade had 12 stories of fire in it. They were afraid it was going to collapse on us, so they pulled everybody out. We couldn't do anything. – Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman (Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, Women at Ground Zero, 2002, p. 17)

27. The 7 World Trade Center was roaring. All we could think is we were an Engine Company, we have got to get them some water. We need some water you know. With that, we positioned the rig, I don't know, 3 quarters of a block away maybe. A fire boat was going to relay water to us. I don't know if I have things in the right order, whatever, if we were getting water out of a hydrant first. Jesus Christ --
Q. Captain said you were getting water. You were draining a vacuum?
A. It was draining away from us. Right. We had to be augmented. I think that's when the fire boat came. I think the fire boats supplied us. Of course you don't see that. You just see the (inaudible) way and you know, we are hooking up and we wound up supplying the Tower Ladder there. I just remember feeling like helpless, like everybody there was doomed and there is -- I just felt like there was absolutely nothing we could do. I want to just go back a little bit.–Firefighter Kevin Howe 

28. "When I got out and onto a clear pile, I see that 7 World Trade Center and the customs house have serious fire. Almost every window has fire. It is an amazing site. –Captain Jay Jonas, Ladder 6. (Dennis Smith. Report From Ground Zero. New York: Viking Penguin, 2002. P. 103)

29. Firefighter TJ Mundy: "The other building, #7, was fully involved, and he was worried about the next collapse."
(Dennis Smith. Report From Ground Zero. New York: Viking Penguin, 2002.)

30. 7 World Trade was burning from the ground to the ceiling fully involved. It was unbelievable. –Firefighter Steve Modica http://www.firehouse.com/terrorist/911/magazine/gz/modica.html

31. So I attempted to get in through the Barkley Street ramp which is on Barkley (sic) and West Broadway, but I was being held back by the fire department, because 7 World Trade, which is above the ramp, was now fully engulfed.
–PAPD K-9 Sergeant David Lim http://www.911report.com/media/davidlim.pdf

32. We could hear fires crackling. We didn’t know it at the time, but No. 7 World Trade Center and No. 5 World Trade Center were immediately adjacent to us and they were roaring, they were on fire. Those were the sounds that we were hearing. ...At the same time, No. 5 World Trade Center, No. 6 World Trade Center and No. 7 World Trade Center were roaring. They were on fire. And they were right next to us. So we have all that smoke that we’re dealing with.
–FDNY Capt. Jay Jonas http://archive.recordonline.com/adayinseptember/jonas.htm