Throughout human history, we have been building structures that we can live in, and as long as we have been constructing buildings, fires have been there to burn them down. As time went on and as technology advanced, we’ve come up with technologies to counteract the effects of fire. But even today with all of our advances our buildings still succumb to the extreme heat. As devastating as fires can be, they have helped us come up with newer ways to save our buildings.
In London in 1666 a fire started in a little bakery around midnight and quickly spread throughout the entire city burning down tens of thousands of homes and other buildings, the fire lasted for about four days. The fire was able to spread quickly because most of the buildings in the area were constructed mostly with wood or wood framing. What saved the south side of London from suffering a similar fate to the area north of the River Thames was a gap on the bridge between houses which acted as a firebreak. There were many plans for the reconstruction of city, one of which would have rivaled cities like Paris with large avenues and parks, due to labor reasons the baroque style reconstruction plan was abandoned. Houses that were made of brick or stone were not harmed in the fire. Compared to more recent history, back in the times of the Great London Fire, fire proofing came through the design of the building, width of hallways and amount of open space. Now, we have the invention of the cavity wall, which can allow for insulation and fire proofing technologies.
In 1871 at the Tuileries Palace in Paris France, 12 men threw petroleum, liquid tar, and turpentine which set the palace on fire, causing a fire that lasted for 48 hours. If the building were made with wood framing like many buildings during the time of the Great Fire of London, then the building would have been completely destroyed. Instead, the building was made of concrete, which is highly flame retardant. The dome collapsed after an explosion where a bomb was place in the middle of the room and set off by the ensuing fire. The roof and interior of the palace were destroyed in the fire, but the shell of the building was made of stone and remained intact, which allowed for the reconstruction of the building, but in 1882, a vote was casted to demolish the ruins of the fire. After the demolition the central courtyard was opened up and connected to the palace grounds.
In Los Angeles California in 1910, a bomb was placed on the side of the LA Times building exterior and exploded a main gas line causing the building to go up in flames. With plumbing becoming more and more popular around this time, the plumbing under the ground became more and more complicated; with more pipes running closer together which allowed for a bigger explosion to occur. The reconstruction of the building was made to stand taller and more uniform, unlike the previous building which was built in parts. The main body of the building was revealed from the exterior like a Gothic nave. This section of the building is supported by two layers of buttressing. Long verticals increase the height of the building, which ultimately ends with a flagpole and the bronze eagle. The heavy stone material is fire retardant, which like in the case of the Tuileries Palace, would keep the shell of the building intact in the case of another fire, and would allow for an easier reconstruction. This style of building and reconstruction allows for there to be bigger spaces with higher ceilings, which would slow down the rate at which the fire would spread.
To this day we keep coming up with ways to protect ourselves against fires. But as time went on, these advances changed from construction material to more aesthetic materials such as Spray Gypsum Based Plaster, Calcium Silicate Boards, Intumescent spray fireproofing. This allows for less emphasis on figuring out a way to protect against fire through construction materials now that we can spray a material onto the structural elements of the building to protect them.