Fire Engineers Refute 9-11 Collapse Theory
by Christopher Bollyn
Published in AFP of May 27, 2002; written in January 2002.
A respected professional magazine read by fire fighters and engineers is calling the investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Towers a farce and a sham. Fire Engineering magazine, the 125-year old journal of record among America's fire engineers and firefighters, blasted the investigation being conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the collapsed World Trade Center as a "a half-baked farce.
Fire Engineering frequently publishes technical studies of major fires and is read in fire departments and schools of fire engineering across the nation. Fire Engineering's editor, William Manning, issued a "call to action" to America's firefighters and fire engineers in the January 2002 issue asking them to contact their representatives in Congress and officials in Washington to demand a blue ribbon panel to thoroughly investigate the collapse of the World Trade Center structures. Manning challenged the theory that the towers collapsed as a result of the crashed airliners and the subsequent fuel fires, saying, "Respected members of the fire protection engineering community are beginning to raise red flags, and a resonating theory has emerged: The structural damage from the planes and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not enough to bring down the towers."
No evidence has been produced to support the theory that the burning jet fuel and secondary fires "attacking the questionably fireproofed lightweight trusses and load-bearing columns directly caused the collapses," Manning wrote, adding that the collapses occurred "in an alarmingly short time." Manning visited the site shortly after the collapse and his photographs appeared in the October 2001 issue of Fire Engineering. None of the photos show the load-bearing central steel support columns standing or fallen, which raises the question, what caused these columns to disintegrate?
The steel from the site must be preserved to allow investigators to determine what caused the collapse, Manning said. "The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately. For more than three months, structural steel from the World Trade Center has been and continues to be cut up and sold for scrap. Crucial evidence that could answer many questions about high-rise building design practices and performance under fire conditions is on the slow boat to China," Manning said, "perhaps never to be seen again in America until you buy your next car."
"Such destruction of evidence," Manning wrote, "shows the astounding ignorance of government officials to the value of a thorough, scientific investigation of the largest fire-induced collapse in world history." Nowhere in the national standard for fire investigation does one find an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories tall, Manning said. "Clearly, there are burning questions that need answers. Based on the incident's magnitude alone, a full-throttle, fully-resourced, forensic investigation is imperative. The lessons about the buildings' design and behavior in this extraordinary event must be learned and applied in the real world.
"Did they throw away the locked doors from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire? Did they throw away the gas can used at the Happyland Social Club fire? Did they cast aside the pressure-regulating valves at the Meridian Plaza fire? Of course not. But essentially, that's what they're doing at the World trade Center."
In a separate editorial, "WTC Investigation? A Call to Action," by the magazine's technical editor, Prof. Glenn Corbett of John Jay University in New York City, and two other expert fire engineers who specialize in high-rise buildings, The FEMA-led investigation was called "uncoordinated" and "superficial."
"The World Trade Center disaster demands the most comprehensive, detailed investigation possible," the writers said. "No event in our entire fire service history has ever come close to the magnitude of this incident." Given the magnitude of the disaster "you would think we would have the largest fire investigation in the world history," the editorial says. "You would be wrong. Instead, we have a series of unconnected and uncoordinated superficial inquiries. No comprehensive 'Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission.' No top-notch National Transportation Safety Board-like response. Ironically, we will probably gain more detailed information about the destruction of the planes than we will about the destruction of the towers. We are literally treating the steel removed from the site like garbage, not like crucial fire scene evidence."
A group of engineers from the American Society of Civil Engineers, commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is reported to be studying "some aspects of the collapse," but not all, according to Manning and others. The engineers' investigation, they say, has not looked into all aspects of the disaster and has had limited access to documents and other evidence. "Except for the marginal benefit obtained from a three-day, visual walk-through of evidence sites conducted by ASCE investigation committee members - described by one close source as a "tourist trip" - no one's checking the evidence for anything," Manning said. "As things now stand and if they continue in such fashion, the investigation into the World Trade Center fire and collapse will amount to paper and computer generated hypotheticals."
Engineers have also complained that they have been shackled with bureaucratic restrictions that prevented them form examining the disaster site, interviewing witnesses and requesting crucial information like recorded distress calls to police and fire departments. "This is almost the dream team of engineers in the country working on this, and our hands are tied," one engineer who asked not to be identified told the New York Times. Members of the team of engineers have been threatened with dismissal for speaking to the press. "FEMA is controlling everything," the anonymous engineer complained.
"Comprehensive disaster investigations mean increased safety," Manning said. "They mean positive change. NASA knows it. The NTSB knows it. Does FEMA know it? No. Fire Engineering has good reason to believe that the 'official investigation' blessed by FEMA and run by the American Society of Civil Engineers is a half-baked farce that may already have been commandeered by political forces whose primary interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure," he wrote.