Fire Engineers Denouncee WTC Probe as a Farce

A respected professional magazine read by firefighters and engineers is
calling the investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Towers a
farce and a sham.

Exclusive to American Free Press

By Christopher Bollyn

Fire Engineering magazine, the 125-year old journal of record among
America’s fire engineers and firefighters, recently 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’s editor, William Manning, issued a “call to action” to
America’s firefighters and fire engineers in the January 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.

Fire Engineering frequently publishes technical studies of major fires and
is read in more than 50,000 fire departments and schools of fire
engineering across the nation.

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.”

Because no “real evidence” has been produced, the theory that the twin
towers collapsed due to fire “could remain just unexplored theory,” Manning

Manning visited the site shortly after the collapse and his photographs
appeared in the October 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?

An eyewitness to the collapse told AFP that as he stood two blocks from the
World Trade Center he had seen “a number of brief light sources being
emitted from inside the building between floors 10 and 15.” He saw about
six of these brief flashes, accompanied by a “crackling sound” immediately
before the tower collapsed.


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.”

The collapse of the World Trade Center was the first total collapse of a
high-rise during a fire in United States history and the largest structural
collapse in recorded history. The collapse resulted in the deaths of some
3,000 people, the second largest loss of life on American soil and the
largest loss of firefighters ever at one incident, yet congressional
hearings or a “blue ribbon” commission looking into the events of Sept. 11
have not been called for, and may never be.


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 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.”


On Christmas Day, The New York Times reported that structural engineers
have demanded a completely new investigation because the decision to
quickly recycle the tower’s steel columns, beams and trusses had resulted
in the wholesale destruction of critical evidence.

Dr. Frederick W. Mowrer, an associate professor in the fire protection
engineering department at the University of Maryland, said the decision had
compromised any investigation of the collapses.

“I find the speed with which potentially important evidence has been
removed and recycled to be appalling,” Mowrer said.

Officials in the New York mayor’s office refused to reply to written and
oral requests from The New York Times over a three-day period about who
actually made the decision to recycle the steel, seriously handicapping the

The engineers said that the “serious mistake” to recycle the structural
steel deprived investigators of the most important direct physical evidence
required when trying to piece together what caused the towers to collapse.
In the United States there are thousands of similar lightweight,
center-core construction high-rise buildings with light-density, sprayed-on
fireproofing, according to Manning.

“We have to learn from incidents through investigation to determine what
types of codes should be in place and what are the best practices for
high-rise construction,” Manning told the Daily News. “The World Trade
Center is not the only lightweight, core construction high-rise in the U.S.
It’s a typical method of construction.”


The builders and owners of the World Trade Center property, the Port
Authority of New York-New Jersey, are a government agency that is reported
to operate “in an accountability vacuum beyond the reach of local fire and
building codes.”

The Port Authority has denied charges that the buildings of the World Trade
Center lacked fire protection or that construction components were
substandard, but has refused to cooperate with requests for documentation
supporting its contentions.

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

“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 from examining the disaster
site, interviewing witnesses and requesting crucial information like
recorded distress calls to the 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 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.


In an article about the mysterious explosion and collapse of the 47-story
Salomon Brothers Building, also known as 7 World Trade Center, which burned
and collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 11, The New York Times reported on Dec.
20 that the New York City Fire Department had repeatedly warned city
officials “that a giant diesel fuel tank for the mayor’s $13 million
command bunker in 7 World Trade Center” could result in a “disaster” if it
caught fire.

Fire Department officials had warned the city and the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey in 1998 and 1999 that the 6,000-gallon diesel tank
posed a serious hazard and was a violation of city fire codes. A leak in
the tank would result in toxic and flammable fumes being spread throughout
the building. Despite the obvious dangers, warnings and fire code
violations, the city made only minor changes to address the concerns and
the tank remained in place.

The tank was meant to fuel generators that would supply electricity to the
mayor’s 23rd-floor bunker in the event of a power failure and was
positioned 15 feet above the ground floor near several lobby elevators.