What Really Happened at WTC building 7 on 9/11?

Before we continue examining conspiracist misrepresentations about WTC 7, it's important that we understand what the official version of events is. Here's a summary, from the NIST report.

Essential Reading: NIST NCSTAR 1-8 Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster: The Emergency Response Operations. (PDF)

Excerpt: Summary of World Trade Center Building 7 Emergency Response.
• The building had sustained damage from debris falling into the building, and they were not sure about the structural stability of the building.

• The building had large fires burning on at least six floors [fires were visible on at least 16 floors]. Any one of these six fires would have been considered a large incident during normal FDNY operations.

• There was no water immediately available for fighting the fires.

• They didn’t have equipment, hose, standpipe kits, tools, and enough handie talkies for conducting operations inside the building.

At approximately, 2:30 p.m., FDNY officers decided to completely abandon WTC 7, and the final order was given to evacuate the site around the building. The order terminated the ongoing rescue operations at WTC 6 and on the rubble pile of WTC 1. Firefighters and other emergency responders were withdrawn from the WTC 7 area, and the building continued to burn. At approximately 5:20 p.m., some three hours after WTC 7 was abandoned the building experienced a catastrophic failure and collapsed.
Here’s a much-reprinted quote from FDNY Chief of Operations Daniel Nigro:
"The biggest decision we had to make was to clear the area and create a collapse zone around the severely damaged [WTC 7] building. A number of fire officers and companies assessed the damage to the building. The appraisals indicated that the building’s integrity was in serious doubt."[Fire Engineering magazine, 10/2002]
In another interview, Chief Nigro said,
"The most important operational decision to be made that afternoon was [that] the collapse [Of the WTC towers] had damaged 7 World Trade Center, which is about a 50 story building, at Vesey between West Broadway and Washington Street. It had very heavy fire on many floors and I ordered the evacuation of an area sufficient around to protect our members, so we had to give up some rescue operations that were going on at the time and back the people away far enough so that if 7 World Trade did collapse, we [wouldn't] lose any more people. We continued to operate on what we could from that distance and approximately an hour and a half after that order was [given], at 5:30 in the afternoon, 7 World Trade Center collapsed completely."http://tinyurl.com/g8c6y

In 2007, "Ref" of the JREF forum and 9/11 Guide contacted Chief Nigro for clarification of some points. Here's the reply he received:
Regarding WTC 7: The long-awaited US Government NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) report on the collapse of WTC 7 is due to be published at the end of this year (although it has been delayed already a few times [ adding fuel to the conspiracy theorists fires!]). That report should explain the cause and mechanics of the collapse in great detail. Early on the afternoon of September 11th 2001, following the collapse of WTC 1 & 2, I feared a collapse of WTC 7 (as did many on my staff). The reasons are as follows:

1 - Although prior to that day high-rise structures had never collapsed, The collapse of WTC 1 & 2 showed that certain high-rise structures subjected to damage from impact and from fire will collapse.

2. The collapse of WTC 1 damaged portions of the lower floors of WTC 7.

3. WTC 7, we knew, was built on a small number of large columns providing an open Atrium on the lower levels.

4. numerous fires on many floors of WTC 7 burned without sufficient water supply to attack them.

For these reasons I made the decision (without consulting the owner, the mayor or anyone else - as ranking fire officer, that decision was my responsibility) to clear a collapse zone surrounding the building and to stop all activity within that zone. Approximately three hours after that order was given, WTC 7 collapsed.

Conspiracy theories abound and I believe firmly that all of them are without merit.

Regards, Dan Nigro
Chief of Department FDNY (retired)
Source

That’s certainly straightforward. Building 7 was severely damaged and had severe, uncontrollable fires, and the FDNY withdrew its firefighters to protect their safety.

Now let’s look at those events through the eyes of conspiracy theorists.