THE DUSSELDORF AIRPORT FIRE OF APRIL 11, 1996.   From the NFPA report : During the worst fire in the history of Düsseldorf and the incident with the highest loss of life in the Federal Republic of Germany since the end of World War 2,17 civilians died, 72 people suffered serious injuries, and several hundred people suffered minor injuries. The cost of the damage is still not completely known, as some areas of the airport have not been restored to full operation. Estimates vary between 300 million and 1 billion German Marks (approximately U.S. $200 million to $600 million).   A massive operation by the different Fire Departments supported by the Police Department, the German Border Police, and other organizations prevented any higher loss of civilian lives, as well as any loss of responding personnel. The situation that the advancing emergency services encountered was made extremely difficult by large clouds of impenetrable smoke, as well by as the complex layout of the buildings.   Approximately 2000 civilians were rescued from highest danger inside the airport. AII available aerial trucks, ground ladders, and other rescue equipment were used. AII search and rescue operations had to be carried out by personnel wearing heavy protective equipment, some with extended-wear SCBA. After the suppression of the fire, a comprehensive review of the structures and their plans was made by the fire department.   At the same time that some fire fighters were concentrating on saving human lives, other personnel were engaged in a massive fire suppression effort. Several big lines and attack lines as well as foam concentrate were used, with special attention paid to extinguishing burning rubber luggage belts that gave off thick, acrid smoke. The fire fighting forces were hampered both by the complex layouts of the airport and by extraordinary heat.   Supporting the airport fire brigade and the municipal fire service in this massive rescue and fire suppression effort were the departments of several other nearby cities, towns, and counties. During the initial phase of the incident, a large number of victims suffering from smoke inhalation were triaged and treated at the location. This effort was supported by numerous trauma physicians, paramedics, and EMTs. Fire development The fire began at approximately 3:31 p.m., about the time someone reported seeing sparks fal1ing from the ceiling in the vicinity of a flower shop at the east end of the arrivals hal1 on the first floor. When two fire fighters from the Airport Fire Brigade responded at 3:33 p.m., they detected an odour inside the building and asked that an electrician respond, as problems with the motors on the automatic doors in the area had been reported in the past. At 3:38 p.m., however, smoke was seen coming from the vents in the flower shop, and the ceiling began to glow and drop burning embers. All airport apparatus and personnel were requested and were on the scene by 3:40 p.m. At 3:58 p.m., a very rapid fire build-up occurred throughout a large area of the first level of the terminal, and the Düsseldorf Fire Brigade was called. Two engines, a ladder, a water tanker, and a command officer responded to the scene at 4:07 p.m. By that time, heavy smoke and fire was showing from the doors on the first level, and the officer requested the equivalent of a second alarm.  At 4: 15 p.m., 44 minutes after the initial alarm, he requested that all city units respond immediately to help in the operation. By the time the fire was extinguished, 701 personnel from 12 different rescue services or municipalities had responded to the incident on 215 pieces of apparatus. The fire was finally declared under control at 7:20 p.m., 3 hours and 49 minutes after the first report of sparks was called in. German authorities determined that the fire began when a welder working on expansion plates in a roadway above the lower level of the terminal building ignited the polystyrene insulation used in the void above the ceiling on the first level. The smoke and flames spread throughout the first level, then extended to the second level through unprotected open stairwells and escalator openings. The fire did significant damage in the vicinity of the stairwells, and heavy smoke damage throughout approximately two-thirds of the second and third levels. Smoke also spread to the fourth level through unprotected escalator openings. The area where the fire occurred was not equipped with any automatic sprinkler systems. Dry standpipes were located in the stairwells on the curb side of the terminal building, but they were not connected to a municipal water supply and had to be charged by fire apparatus. The building was also equipped with an alarm system that used voice annunciation in German, French, and English. Manual pull stations and smoke detectors were located throughout the building, but there was no smoke detection in the void, since it reportedly was not used as a return air plenum. The airport was completely shut down for 3 1/2 days following the fire. Limited operations were restored the Monday after the blaze, and the airport was back to 90 percent operations as of July 1, 1996. Tents and hangars were used as temporary terminals. Building design This five-level building was the sole terminal for the Dusseldorf Airport and handled all passenger traffic. Passengers claimed their luggage on the ground level, where the baggage conveyor systems and car rental facilities were located. The height from the floor on this level to the underside of the concrete deck above was approximately 15 feet (4.6 m). Adhered to the underside of this deck above an unprotected void between it and the suspended ceiling of the ground floor were blocks of polystyrene insulation 3 inches (8 cm) thick. Reportedly, this void was not used as an air handling plenum.   The second level of the terminal contained airline ticket desks, shops, restaurants, and seating areas. Like the ground floor, the second level was 1,850 feet (564 m) long and approximately 30 feet (9.1 m) from floor to ceiling. Overlooking the second level was the third, or mezzanine, level containing the VIP lounges, conference rooms, and various administrative offices. The fourth level contained a restaurant and the observation deck, and the fifth level contained another restaurant. A train station was located below the terminal, and a vehicle service tunnel ran the length of the building. A five-level garage was adjacent to the terminal area on the south side, and two vehicle bridges connected the roof of the terminal's third level with the third level of the garage. Three fingers jutted out from the main concourse building, between which were 28 gates, or stands, for aircraft. Fingers A and B, (east and middle sections) and the part of the terminal associated with them were built in 1972. Finger C, at the west end, and its associated part of the terminal were added in 1986. The building was constructed of reinforced concrete. The exterior of the ground floor was covered in masonry, while the exterior of the second, third, fourth, and fifth levels was covered with what appeared to be metal panels. The exterior windows on all five levels were inoperable. Sixty-eight airlines were listed as flying into and out of Dusseldorf. In 1995, the terminal handled 15.1 million passengers. Operating hours were from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Original Fire Protection Features   The west end of the structure was partially equipped with sprinklers, but the fire occurred on the east end of the structure, which was built in 1972 and was not equipped with sprinklers. The dry standpipes on the curb side of the building in the stairwells were not connected to a municipal water supply and had to be pumped by fire department apparatus. Smoke detectors were observed in the office areas of the second floor but not at the ceiling level in the main concourse area.   The terminal was equipped with a fire alarm system that transmitted alarms to a command center in a remote building on the airport grounds and to the Airport Fire Brigade. It did not transmit signals to the Dusseldorf Fire Brigade. This alarm system used an emergency voice/alarm communication system using pre-recorded messages. The terminal's ground floor could be divided into two separate fire areas by a rolldown fire door, which could be activated either by smoke detectors at the ceiling on either side of the door or by manual pull stations next to the door.   The exit doors on the south side of the terminal were predominantly of two types: power-actuated swinging doors and power-actuated glass sliding doors. The ground level, through which arriving passengers passed, had 12 sets of doors, while the departure area on the floor above had 10 sets of doors. According to the Dusseldorf Fire Brigade, the doors would not open automatically when power was lost. It was observed during the on-site investigations and during subsequent conversation with authorities that the sliding doors could not be opened outward by applying pressure to them. Several enclosed stairwells on the curb side of the building provided egress from the mezzanine, second, and ground floors directly to the exterior of the building. Investigators, who saw no such stairwells on the air side, could not document the means of egress on the air side of the terminal. The Dusseldorf Airport Fire Brigade is a full-time fire brigade with an on-duty strength of 24 fire fighters and officers who staff five pieces of aircraft rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) apparatus. The station is located approximately 1,700 feet (518 m) from the terminal. The Dusseldorf City Fire Brigade is composed of a combination of paid and volunteer fire fighters who staff seven full-time stations and ten volunteer stations, as well as a fireboat that provides protection on the Rhine River. Each shift is staffed by 120 permanent fire fighters and 250 volunteers. FRAME Calculation for the existing situation   With the data found in the German report of the "112"-magazine and its NFPA translation, a FRAME calculation has been made. FRAME generated Report (METRIC DATA) pdf-file . This calculation gives the following results: The calculated risk R is for the property: 2.55 The calculated risk R1 is for the persons: 2.01  The calculated risk R2 is for the activities: 1.30 For a well protected compartment, the 3 values shall be below 1. It is a pity to find out from the FRAME calculated values that such fire catastrophe could be expected and that the fire protection for this building was clearly unsatisfactory. The R- Value = 2.55 for property means that a more than 100 % loss can be expected, which means that the fire can develop beyond the compartment of origin (which it did) , the R1-Value = 2.01 means a unacceptable high risk level for the people inside ( 17 killed, many injured!). And the R2-value gives a rather moderate but still unacceptable level for business interruption. Checking the New Airport 2000+ concept with FRAME ( REF: BRANDSCHUTZ -Deutsche Feuerwehr-Zeitung nr. 7/2001) In many cases, a catastrophic fire like the one that occurred on 11 April 1996 in the Dusseldorf Airport, provokes the S.A.B.E.N.A. Syndrome : "Such A Bloody Experience Never Again". It touches building owners and authorities alike, and the result is a building concept where any imaginable and available protection features is included without much consideration for the necessity and for the economics of such a design. This apparently happened also in Dusseldorf, as can be seen in the next review.   The central airport building was completely renewed and provided for a larger flow of passengers with more comfort and more services. The new fire safety concept addresses all weaknesses found during the analysis of the 1996 event, and uses the following main goals :  minimising fire loads, compartimentation, early detection of fire, smoke control, safeguarding the evacuation Minimising fire loads Fire loads have been minimised through the use of non-combustible or difficult to ignite materials for building insulation, decoration and finishings. Compartimentation The new structure was designed to be 1.5h fire resistive (F90), except for the large hall roof, where fire simulation calculations indicated that the available fire load combined with sprinklers could not generate critically high temperatures. The departure wings were separated from the main buildings and the lower floors subdivided in fire compartments. Separations were made by fire partitions and by fire resistant glass facades. Evacuation Maximum distances to a safe exit way were imposed and two exit paths were designed for every point of the building. This results in about 36 protected staircases which go directly to the open air. External staircases have smoke vents, internal staircases have overpressure protection. Additional care was given to indicate very clearly the exit paths. Doors that have to be locked for normal security and border control reasons are linked to the fire detection system so that they can be unlocked automatically in case of fire.   Fire protection systems  The airport has a very developed alarm and information management systems, based on a general automatic fire detection system and a zone-oriented information system . The fire detection system also controls the air-conditioning, the smoke management system, the steering of elevators and the unlocking of emergency exit doors. The system is subdivided in about 200 fire zones. The communication system can address people in four languages, and has numerous features to provide detailed information. Smoke management Mechanical smoke management systems have been installed: the check-in hall is equipped with 26 smoke fans each of 100.000 Nm3/h capacity. The lower levels have a special developed smoke management system to,extract smoke before it can move through opening for light and communications. Air conditioning is monitored by the smoke detection to avoid smoke spreading around. The whole building is now protected by sprinklers, and special fire protection systems have been foreseen for special risk areas. The atrium like central hall has no ceiling sprinklers, which would only operate with some delay. Instead increased density systems have been installed below all galeries adjacent to that area. Low temperature and low RTI were specified to be sure that a fast response of the sprinklers can be guaranteed.FRAME calculation for the new design. The data available in the reference article were enough to recalculate the fire risk for the new concept. The results of this calculation NEW CONCEPT FRAME CALCULATION (pdf-file) show a very low residual risk, which goes beyond the standard "good" level proposed by FRAME. The pendulum swung to the other side as could be expected: Based on the FRAME calculations, it is possible to say that in the Dusseldorf Airport, the fire protection design was not properly balanced: before the catastrophe it was too poor, afterwards a costly overdone design was chosen....  RESULTS of the FRAME Calculation: The calculated risk R is for the property: 0.35 The calculated risk R1 is for the persons: 0.12 The calculated risk R2 is for the activities: 0.17 PRINT  THIS PAGE  (pdf)