Engine Company, Firefighting

Fire Walls in Multiple Dwellings and Townhouses of Wood-Frame Construction

Issue 4 and Volume 170.

By Glenn P. Corbett (1) This 1970s-era townhouse complex features masonry fire walls with parapets between each unit. (Photos by author unless otherwise noted.) Fire walls are one of our oldest tools of fire protection, older than the earliest fire engines and sprinkler heads. In the aftermath of the Great London Fire of 1666, fire walls became a standard construction element to keep fire from spreading from one building to another. Parapets, an ancient feature of forts to repel attacks, were extended above the roof surface on top of the fire wall to enhance its effectiveness. Fire walls became a line of defense. It was during the 19th century that the masonry fire wall was perfected, protecting thousands of factories during the Industrial Revolution. The insurance industry played a particularly important role in their use and design. Fire doors, protecting openings in fire walls, came into existence during this same…

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