Balloon frame and platform frame are the most common types of frame construction. The wall studs are normally two-by-four-inch lumber set 16 inches apart. The bearing walls support the structure and can be any of the exterior walls, depending on the layout of the building. Since standard framing lumber comes in a maximum of 20 -foot lengths, the building is typically designed so that the floor and roof joists sit on exterior bearing walls constructed of wooden members.
FIRE STUDIES >>> By JAMES P. SMITH Frame Buildings: The Longer They Burn, The Weaker They Become Knowledge of Construction Aids in Predicting Routes of Fire Travel I t was 4 P.M. as the firefighters arrived. Medium to heavy smoke was coming from the second floor of a two-story balloon-frame apartment building. The building was over 100 years old and in a rundown condition. It was in a block of similar rental properties that had received little maintenance in recent years. The fire was reported in a second-floor rear apartment. The first hoseline was stretched up the interior stairs at the front of the building. The second-floor hallway was long and packed down with smoke. On the floor in the hallway, firefighters found a young woman with a child strug- gling to get to the stairs. She told them it was her apartment that was on fire and that no one else was in the apartment. Brian Feeney They assisted her to the stairs and another firefighter took them to safety. As they crawled down the hallway to stay under the heat, the firefighters could Even sufficient fire department staffing does not ensure controlling a fire in its incipient stage if the fire now see the flames pushing through the department is not notified in a timely manner. smoke from the slightly opened apartment door. They could hear the sound of glass advanced, knocking down the fire in the The types of frame buildings are: being broken by the truck companies and other rooms. • Balloon frame – This system uses a the smoke in the hallway started to lift as As the firefighters were doing a pri- continuous wall stud from the lowest level the windows in the apartment were vent- mary search, the captain notified the chief through the roof area. It interconnects the ing the smoke and fire to the exterior. of their progress. The chief was concerned void space created by the floor joist at each An apartment door across the hallway about fire entering the walls or ceiling be- level of the building with the wall void opened and was quickly slammed shut, cause of the balloon-frame construction. spaces. Fire-stopping is rare. In actuality, and the elderly woman in that apartment A truck company firefighter had a pike the entire void space within the building began to shout for help. The firefighters pole and the captain had her pull the ceil- is one large interconnected area. A fire told her to stay inside and she would be ing to check for fire extension in areas that starting on a lower level and entering wall safe. At the same time, the captain alerted showed up on the thermal imager. There or floor voids can quickly extend to the the chief of her location. Water was now was minor extension of fire into the walls attic. Though this type of construction is at the tip and the nozzleman pushed open and ceiling that was quickly extinguished. no longer used, there are many balloon- the door and played the stream in a circu- frame-constructed buildings in commu- lar motion onto the ceiling of the burn- Wood-Frame Construction nities throughout the United States. ing apartment. The hoseline was then A wood-frame building is one in • Platform frame – The most com- fed from the hallway as the nozzle man which all members are wooden or a simi- mon type of new frame construction is lar material. Frame buildings contain fea- the platform frame. It starts at the lowest JAMES P. SMITH, a Firehouse ® contributing editor, recently retired as a deputy chief of the Philadelphia Fire tures that can assist or impair firefighters’ level where the floor joist and flooring are Department. He is an adjunct instructor at the National abil
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