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Wood-frame apartment complex under construction burns to the ground in Waltham

NBC Boston reports five buildings under construction at Cooper and Elm streets went up in flames around 4 a.m. [Photos].

This is the third major fire to erupt in large wood-frame buildings under construction in the Boston area over the past couple of months.

On June 28, a building nearing completion in Dorchester erupted in flames. On June 4, Quincy firefighters were able to limit a fire in a new Marina Bay building under construction to just two alarms.

Nearby buildings and homes were evacuated. Fire departments from across the area sent crews and trucks - Boston sent four trucks. Service on the Fitchburg Line was halted; buses are ferrying passengers around.

The complex, being built by Lincoln Property Company and Daiwa House Industry Co. of Japan, was to house 264 luxury apartments, with rents starting around $2,000.

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Comments

That neighborhood had a young firebug when my husband lived right across the street in the late 80s. The guy preferred to torch cars, though? Maybe he got out?

It will be interesting to see how this proceeds. Maybe someone read The Monkey Wrench Gang and took it to heart?

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Occam's Razor: Whenever you shave something thin enough, it only has one side...
"Maybe he got out?" Probably, after doing a few years. 1999 tops. Granted, they don't usually change their ways, but sometimes they do. It's called 'growing up and fear of prison'.

Sometimes an amazing coincidence is just a coincidence...and not so amazing...nor a coincidence...1980's arsonist does not equal (!=) 2017 construction fire...

My bet, because of the early stage of construction: If the seat of the fire can be discerned, then there might be evidence buried in the ash. Equipment failure or overheating is most likely, probably electrical. Plumbing (sweating copper connections) used to be major, but I think they have approved plastic plumbing now. Apparent wind conditions didn't help. A cigarette in mulch could be the culprit, although I doubt the existence of mulch, too early in the project.

My feeling? A mouse built a nest in a cooling duct for some equipment and it overheated. Which would take a while to show itself. Oh, I can provide plenty of pics of mice causing problems...

Arson for profit can be ruled out.

Meh, wait for the fire report.

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Could be spontaneous combustion of oil or solvent-soaked rags.

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Here's a couple of pics...

Electrical problems in a Craftsman riding tractor

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/wjhI03n.jpg)

Ford LGT 100 cooling duct.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/GxGpHqD.jpg)

These are both my tractors. This is the very first time these pics have been on the internet. Both of these were over the winter. Mice pee is corrosive, too. Little bastards...

The whole 'oily rag' thing is a bit blown out of proportion. Old rags using linseed oil will indeed spontaneously combust, but linseed is flax oil, an organic. If you have a cut grass mulch pile, check it out. It'll get hot. Ask any landscaper.
Oil changing rags from cars are a bit different. Especially with synthetics like Mobil 1, they won't really heat up the way linseed will.
Boatyards, especially ones that work on wooden boats a lot, are very serious about oily rags.
Most commercial construction uses latex based coatings. EPA rules for volatiles and shit like that.

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Its pretty cute that you're using this phrase here, when I recall a recent post you had with some climate change denier BS, specifically speaking about a handful of passionate "scientists" fighting against the overwhelming consensus on climate change being real.

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Actually it was a paper released in June calling out the global average surface temperature shenanigans being played by some folks.

Here's a list of the "scientists", as you call them that signed on to it.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/deOpuz8.png)

I dunno, Rutgers, MIT, Cal Tech, these are not a bunch of lightweight bloggers...they are actual scientists, not scare quote scientists.
Here's a link to the actual paper...https://thsresearch.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/ef...

Oh, the 'Occam's Razor' quote...kind of a joke, actually.

"Veritas"...you should try it sometime.

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Among their thousands and thousands of graduates from any of these respected institutions, of course, you'll find some people with odd opinions. What are you suggesting it proves?

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"What are you suggesting it proves?"

You didn't read the paper, did you?

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So, tell me...How's Dr. Mann's libel suit going?

I dunno, if you look at the credentials of the listed scientists, any rational human being (so I guess that leaves out the more religiously fanatical AGW fanatics) would at least keep an open mind about their findings.
Oh, they didn't write it, they just endorsed the findings that question the methodology of the data collection. They're not saying that there's no global warming, they're just saying that some of the data is suspect.

You should read it, not too heavy on the jargon and lots of interesting graphs. Are we cooking the planet? Maybe, but they're definitely cooking the books...

Notice how I wrote this without a single snarky reference or ad hominem attack? That's called 'being an adult'.

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religiously fanatical AGW fanatics

Its just a dishonest argument you're making there, hey they aren't questioning global warming, no no no its just questioning decades of peer reviewed research on the subject. Right.

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"Scientists" in the respect that they certainly have outstanding credentials but its clear that this unpublished, non-peer reviewed paper had a predisposed narrative, it didn't seek to adhere to any notion of honest, peer reviewed science.

Veritas eh? Like James O'Keefe?

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torched billboards, not luxury condos under construction.

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And Dams, and Construction Equipment. Though they were in the wilderness rather than city.

IIRC the Billboards were the "entry" point.

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dams or billboards, then Swirly's reference would be spot on. But last I looked, we don't seem to be having a problem with those things suddenly going up in flames in the Boston area.

And, while it's been some time since I read the book, I do recall that billboards were a consistent target of the Monkey Wrench Gang (they, like teenage girls selling Baskin-Robbins ice cream, were a particular favorite of the doctor who funded the whole operation - pardon the pun), and not just the "entry" point for them.

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Is obviously on the loose. Someone page Alex Jones!

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...the 'Class A Construction Burner' had little luck in his endeavors.

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Dorchester fire was equipment on the roof, I believe. It burned through to the loft under the roof and spread.
Sprinklers weren't signed off yet, so they weren't turned on, I believe.
Exposed truss framing (wood) doesn't last long under those conditions. I think the walls, etc were all sheathed, so the building might be OK because of 1 hour fire rated construction, water damage might be a killer, though.
Quincy fire was knocked down quick, so probably not arson.

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Glad to see only two minor injuries to firefighters under difficult conditions. What was interesting was several firetrucks began running out of fuel by 10 AM and at one point, the closest FD fuel delivery truck was coming from Lowell. Eventually Boston FD sent a fuel wagon and the MBTA was sending a fuel truck to assist but it was touch and go for a while, with some apparatus shutting down. One of the better aspects of our local government is the fire mutual aid system. Trucks from Boston, Metrowest and the North Shore assisting at the fire and covering Waltham stations. Teamwork.

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Hey! There's something very wrong about this. These are not typical fires. Large, residential buildings bursting into flames, too intense for firefighters to even approach! That any building's construction can be so volatile ought to be a major concern, but the realization it was intended as a place for hundreds of people to live, makes the whole idea of multi-story buildings made of wood, even more questionable than it already seemed.

Not that wood doesn't have certain advantages over steel and concrete, nor can any building ever be 100% safe, and with certain techniques and conditions, wood can indeed be quite safe. The problem is, the larger a wood-frame building becomes, the more complicated, expensive, and important those techniques and conditions become.

Much of this technology is very new and building codes are being pushed to keep up. This very brief article explains some of it:
   IMAGE(https://www.firechief.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/wr-1.jpg)
          Are wood-frame high rises a fire risk? — FireChief.com

In Portland, the city government approved a statute, Title 24.85, that allowed an additional Type V-1 Hour Protected story to be added with the following provisions:

  • Type V-1 Hour Protected (up to five stories) over Type I Construction with a three-hour separation, i.e., concrete slab.
  • The top four stories must be R-1 Occupancy.
  • There must be an installed fire protection system throughout the structure.
  • The maximum building height cannot exceed 65 feet.
  • Firefighting equipment access requirements must be complied with.

However. as the article briefly touches on, there's much more to it than that. For example, a reliance on quality of sheet rock and plaster to retard files, and integrity of fire-block walls at key locations to prevent "chimney-effect" spread of fires.

Some may say: well, these buildings weren't finished, so all of those fire-retardant features weren't available yet. But the building in Dorchester was totally completed and it burned like a flaming marshmallow into nothing but ashes. Only it's sprinkler system wasn't working yet.

That's what really needs to sink in — too many things have to be in perfect working order for it not to be a death trap. (e.g.: Whenever there's a water-supply failure, will the apartments in such buildings always be immediately evacuated?) Developers and contractors always cut corners and use the cheapest methods and materials to maximize profits. Safety, is just the minimum required to meet code.

Those building codes often sound fine in theory, but these recent fires are showing in practice, they're far from perfect — the construction is proving to be alarmingly flammable! I dread reading about another such fire, where there's also tragic loss of life. I'm just sayin', I think TPTB need to look at this right away!

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No one is building high rises out of wood at the moment in Boston. These have all been four stories, which is currently the maximum height allowed by the building code for wood-framed buildings. To be perfectly frank, you're being non-sensical. Most of Boston's housing stock are three-story wooden buildings, with a lot of them 100 years old or older.

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The height restriction for wood frame buildings is 155 feet, but variances can be obtained to go even higher. Recently a 6 story wood building was completed in Brighton.

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Yes, there are many buildings going up currently that are six-stories. Maybe it used to be four storeys (or, the equivalent in feet). I live in one; just about every project in Southie is now wood-frame "mid-rise" (really, "low-rise").

While I find the sudden "trend" in fires (3x is a "trend, to some people) unsettling, I think it's a lot of hot air to conclude that this type of construction is dangerous. A properly-sprinkled building (with central alarms and multiple staircases for exits) seems safe, and firefighters can still reach the majority of the building with their ladders. Plus, the density in these buildings isn't so much that you're looking at a large number of casualties should they go up in flames.

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Apartment buildings are seldom maintained in perfect order as they get older. How many times have we read about fires where alarms systems didn't work or exit stairs were blocked? Sprinkler systems also cost money to maintain, and who hasn't heard of landlords or property managers cutting corners on such things?

I agree with your assertion that if all these safety systems are in place, the building is probably quite safe. But that's a big "if", and it might not always remain true as the property ages. The Dorchester fire illustrated what will happen if only the sprinkler system fails.

These aren't little triple-deckers; they're buildings with hundreds of apartments, stacked far beyond the reach of any Fire Department rescue ladders. I wouldn't toss off the potential for great loss of life so quickly. This construction technology is very new and these spectacular fires are suggesting there are still some bugs to be worked out.

Why wouldn't you want to pause and determine why the fires were so intense and impossible to control, before building more in exactly the same way? You can't deny, simply having that much combustible material on a construction site is unexpectedly hazardous; putting workers, firefighters, and people in surrounding buildings in danger.

You've just witnessed two examples of how; if the construction site catches on fire; even the Fire Department can't put it out. Hello?!! Maybe they're perfectly safe when completed, but if a tragic fire ever does occur, would you want to look back at these fires, as warning signs that were ignored?

          ( don't worry, there's nothing that can possibly go wrong! )

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What if in that small number of casualties happened to be your Wife, Mother or sister? How many casualties from this sort of thing is too many?

Reminds me of the traffic light rule I heard about once where some certain number of casualties at an intersection by way of traffic accident needs to be met or surpassed before a town will put up a set of traffic lights. We all need to stop watching the news and gain some sensitivity, it's what separates us from the monkeys...

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and laws snd building codes will not change until somebody is killed in or fighting one if these fires.

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Are all three of these wood frame projects non-union?

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