In 2019, Billings firefighters toured the Alberta Bair Theater as it underwent renovations. Because the skeleton of the building was exposed, firefighters were able to see how the structure was built and relate that to how other buildings or homes can be vulnerable to blazes, especially while under construction.
During the tour, the firefighters encountered a relic. A sign mounted to the wall said, “In case of fire, cut this line”. A chain dangling from the sign had a knife at the end. In the event of a fire, an employee would cut the chain, triggering a “fire curtain” to fall and protect the audience from whatever had ignited on the stage. Obviously, that system is no longer state-of-the-art, but the idea of taking steps to mitigate fire risk, especially while a structure is under construction or undergoing renovations, is just as relevant today.
Construction and renovation projects are particularly susceptible to wreckage by flames, smoke, and soot. Whether you own a home or run a business, a blaze can severely delay your plans, cost you thousands of dollars, and put lives at risk.
Unfortunately, these tragedies are far too common. Local fire departments throughout the country responded to an estimated average of 3,480 fires in structures under construction and 2,580 fires in buildings under renovation per year from 2013 to 2017, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Fire vulnerability in structures undergoing renovation or under construction
Structures that are still under construction or undergoing renovation are nonresistant to flames for a multitude of reasons. Incomplete structures typically have more exposed wood. In addition, there are typically prevalent heat and spark sources, as well as a high fuel load. The leading factors that contribute to fires in these cases include electrical failures or malfunctions, abandoned or discarded materials or products, and heat sources that are located too close to combustible materials.
When you couple that with the fact that a building undergoing construction may not yet have an active fire protection system — such as detectors, alarms, and sprinklers — and a building under renovation might have a temporarily disabled fire protection system, you have a potentially explosive combination.
What steps can you take to safeguard your property from infernal destruction?
- Ensure that all temporary lighting used to illuminate the project site follows the National Electrical Code requirements.
- Don’t allow unauthorized temporary heaters on the construction site.
- For permitted heaters, ensure the crew places them a safe distance from flammable and combustible material.
- Ensure the crew is operating heaters safely and within manufacturer instructions.
- Keep an ample number of fire extinguishers throughout the site. This includes on different levels if the structure is more than one story.
- If your home or business is under renovation, ensure that your contractor keeps your current fire security system operational throughout the process.
- Don’t allow smoking inside the building or outside near combustible materials.
- Require the crew to thoroughly remove all debris at the end of each workday.
- To protect the property from arson, install fencing, lighting, or employ security personnel.
A fire can make an already long and expensive construction or renovation project even slower and more costly. If your home or business has been damaged by a fire, you must partner with an experienced disaster contractor to get your property and project back online as quickly and safely as possible.
Whether the damage is minimal and confined to one room or has caused massive damage to a structure, Alpha Omega Disaster Restoration can help reconstruct, cleanup, or repair your Billings area property. We will act as general contractors for the entire job. Our in-house experts specialize in their trades. We also work with local, trustworthy subcontractors to provide highly skilled craftsman service when needed.