Firestorms are large uncontrolled fires that may spread from structure to structure, by wind-blown embers. Non-combustible concrete and masonry construction resists fire and provides valuable fire containment benefits for resisting the spread of fire from one building or one unit to another.

Firestorms can occur when sprinklers systems are not in place or not operating in buildings without adequate compartmentation, or division of units, which is easily and affordably provided with non-combustible concrete and masonry construction. Many of these fires happen while buildings are still under construction, before sprinkler systems are activated. Large firestorms can also happen after major disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. They also result from wildland fires at urban-wildland interfaces and other situations where there is not an adequate water supply or the automatic sprinkler systems fail.

Notable firestorms include: In August 2002, in San Jose, California, the headline following a fire at a complex under construction read: “Acres of townhomes and businesses in the Santa Row complex were destroyed by fire.” In September 2003, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported: “Construction Blaze: Fire Guts Complex [in a] blaze that destroyed 350 luxury units in southeast valley.”

 In 2004, Mark Holmberg of the Times-Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia, commented on a fire in the wood frame portion of new Virginia Commonwealth University dormitories under construction: “On March 26, it really went up in a hurry. It took just a half-hour for the top four floors of the block-long building to be consumed in a wind-whipped inferno that spread to 26 buildings on nearby blocks.”


Las Vegas Complex fire.

Virginia Commonwealth University dormitory fire.

Santa Ana Row fire damage.




Is your community prepared to deal with such a large disaster and the resulting displaced families and closed businesses? Lack of adequate fire protection allows fire storms to ravage communities. In addition to lost jobs and displaced families, such fires drain community resources and the resources of charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross.

With non-combustible concrete and masonry construction, fires can be contained in the building, if not the unit, of fire origin. Non-combustible concrete and masonry exteriors resist fire spread from other buildings and blowing embers.

Building code requirements for minimum two-hour fire-resistant non-combustible walls between living units and between living units and public spaces — combined with requirements of minimum one-hour non-combustible exterior walls on all multi-family dwellings — will ensure that your community will be safer and more protected from fire storms.

When it comes to building construction and firefighter safety, there is no comparison to non-combustible concrete and masonry construction. For more information about combining smoke detectors, fire sprinklers, and passive fire protection visit the Pennsylvania Fire Safety Construction Advisory Council.