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Historic building fires create challenging situations for firefighters

Posted at 9:56 PM, Apr 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 00:56:57-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — The world paused yesterday as they watched a historic, beloved Cathedral in flames.

When historic buildings, like the Notre Dame, burn, it presents challenges for firefighters.

"If you think of a building like a box, boxes are interdependent of all four sides," Tucson Fire Assistant Fire Chief Sharon McDonuogh said. " You look at the building and the roof that is constructed of heavy timber, which is what happened in Notre Dame when a roof collapses all the other walls have a tendency to collapse too."

McDonuogh said, stone walls can be particularly dangerous during a collapse because the material is so heavy.

Another added danger, when fires break out in historic buildings there's usually no sprinkler system.

"Most of the older buildings were not built to that fire code standard," McDonuogh said.

Sprinklers allow fire crews to start fighting the fire before they even arrive the scene.

It can keep more firefighters away from the flames.

"We have to look at the construction of the building and the fire impingement on the building before we commit our crews to the interior, because we're putting them into a really unsafe situation of collapse," McDonuogh said.

A lot of older buildings don't have safety features because the fire codes may not require it, but she said, it could make a huge difference in preserving a piece of history.