Analysis of the World Trade Center (WTC) Fire. Paper Example

Published: 2023-03-06
Analysis of the World Trade Center (WTC) Fire. Paper Example
Type of paper:  Case study
Categories:  United States Analysis Terrorism
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1293 words
11 min read

According to the Qi, Wang, and Zmeureanu (2014), the occurrence of fire on a typical building can have a far-reaching impact not only to the occupants but the entire society. The fire outbreak remains a significant threat to the safety of people both in developing and developed countries. The United States provides the best example of a country experiencing fire incidents and accidents annually (Levy-Carrick et al., 2016). However, the fire calamity at the WTC following a terrorist attack that occurred on September 11, 2001, remains one of the most dreadful fire incidences in the history of the United States. The terrorist attack, in collaboration with fire incidences, accounted for the death of 2783 people (Qi et al., 2014). This paper uses different articles collected from the CSU library to provide a comprehensive analysis of various issues associated with this historic fire.

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Causes of the WTC Fire

According to Levy-Carrick et al. (2016), the cause of the fire that occurred and engulfment and the imminent collapse of the twin towers at the WTC during September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks remains a misery among numerous Americans. Scientists believe that this fire erupted from the softening effect of steel as well as the burning effect of the jet fuel. However, Eager and Musso (2001) rejected these beliefs and, in turn, highlighted a wide range of thermodynamic factors that contributed to the occurrence of this terrible fire. First, the availability of more than 90,000 liters of jet fuel played a vital role in the ignition and spread of fire. Secondly, the presence of three different types of flame at the target area, including jet burner, diffuse, and pre-mixed flame, contributed to the spread of fire and its associated effects. Lastly, the ignited fire burnt with non-uniform temperature, which led to the loss of strength in the steel used in building the twin towers (Qi et al., 2014). The non-uniform temperatures also culminated in the loss of structural integrity of the two high-rise office buildings at the WTC and eventually culminated into collapse.

Investigating the Presence of Any Design Flaws in the Building

A comprehensive analysis of the cause and spread of the WTC fire revealed that the building lacked any flaw in its design. Eager and Musso (2001) emphasized that no single designer of the skyscrapers could anticipate the terrorist attack as well the presence of approximately 90,000 liters of jet oil on the flows of the building (Lippmann, Cohen, & Chen, 2015). The twin towers had a unique design to support themselves for nearly three hours in a typical fire regardless of their sprinkler system's failure to function. The twin towers lasted for about two hours less than the intended design life because the load of the fire fuel was too large. Ordinary fires usually take more than an hour to spread uniformly across the breadth and width of a building of about 4,000 square meters (Levy-Carrick et al., 2016). Hence, the WTC fire was somewhat abnormal.

Building Design Issues that Could Hinder the Fire Response

Reibman (2015) emphasized the lack of any structural design issues associated with the twin towers at the WTC that could hinder the fire response. Further analysis reveals that the New York City Fire Department (NYFD) made appropriate efforts to arrive at the WTC immediately to put off the fire. However, the fire resulting from various causes released more than one million tons of debris alongside dust into the areas surrounding WTC. These debris, smoke, and dust engulfed the NYFD rescue team as they tried to make their way into the two towers and help people who worked at WTC (Lippmann et al., 2015). Lastly, thousands of innocent civilians who could help the response team salvage the situation also flee away in search of safety.

How Hazard Analysis Could Help in Eliminating Hazards in the Structure

According to Toole and Carpenter (2013), conducting thorough hazard analysis as an element of the Prevention through Design technique is essential in eliminating all forms of hazards in a typical building. The enhanced hazard analysis could help in establishing some of the issues that could expose WTC to fire incidents such as using artificial intelligence to detect and respond to the impending danger (Qi et al., 2014). Also, design analysis was crucial in building an office for a rapid response team within the WTC to prevent the occurrence of terrorist attacks that could culminate in such dreadful fire.

Role of Prevention through Design (PtD) in Fire Preventing

Toole and Carpenter (2013) averred that the use of PtD could help the designers to prevent the WTC fire and reduce its effects. For example, the designers of the building needed to use artificial intelligence by using automated sensors that could scan the adjacent environment and sensitize the building occupants to vacate earlier before the fire struck. Also, these integrated sensors could be crucial in sending appropriate notifications to NYFD to ensure that they have adequate capacity to respond and put off the fire (Walline, 2014). It was possible to design the two buildings with automated temperature detectors controlled from and by various intelligence agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations to ensure that all occupants leave their respective offices before the occurrence of the accident (Toole & Carpenter, 2013). Lastly, such systems could help in the efficient identification of victims and launching immediate treatment programs to reduce outcome severity.

Areas to Use PtD to Prevent the Re-occurrence of Such Incidents

According to Walline (2014), applying PtD principles can be an essential step in preventing the occurrence of fire similar to that experienced in WTC. For instance, it is necessary to design a building with stairwells that terminate on the ground and as opposed to relying on lifts and ordinary staircases that could make it difficult for people to evacuate the building. Also, stairway access to basement and ground levels should be completely separate from those heading to upper levels to eliminate confusion and human errors that can lead to more victims knocking against each other during exit (Toole & Carpenter, 2013). Lastly, designers must apply such techniques in all high-rise office buildings to increase efficiency.


Fire outbreaks such as the one experienced at the WTC on September 11, 2001, can not only cause property destruction but also result in massive deaths of people as well as long-lasting mental problems, such as depression. Massive casualties who may end up suffering from multiple diseases and infections as a result of injuries sustained during fires are some of the effects that contemporary firefighters and policymakers must address. However, using appropriate PtD strategies can help in preventing such incidents in the future, as discussed in this paper.


Lippmann, M., Cohen, M. D., & Chen, L. (2015). Health effects of World Trade Center (WTC) dust: An unprecedented disaster with inadequate risk management. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 45(6), 492-530Retrieved from

Eagar, T. W. & Musso, C. (2001). Why did the World Trade Center Collapse? Science, Engineering, and Speculation. JOM, 53(12), 8-11. Retrieved from

Levy-Carrick, N., Miles, T., Flynn, K., Hughes, C., Crane, M., & Lucchini, R. G. (2016). Destruction of the World Trade Center Towers. Lessons learned from an environmental health disaster. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 13(5), 577-583. Retrieved from

Qi, D., Wang, L., & Zmeureanu, R. (2014). An analytical model of heat and mass transfer through non-adiabatic high-rise shafts during fires. International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 72(1), 585-594. Retrieved from

Toole, M. T. & Carpenter, G. (2013). Prevention through Design as a Path toward Social Sustainability. Journal of Architectural Engineering, 1(2), 168-172. Retrieved from

Walline, D. L. (2014). Prevention through Design. Proven Solutions from the field. Safety Management, 2(3), 43-49. Retrieved from

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