This week I was in Nashville, TN attending the SES Annual Conference. I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended this conference and network with other professionals who use and develop standards like those developed by NFPA. And I had the opportunity to go to the Grand Ole Opry! (When in Rome.)
Also this week, a fire occurred in Atlanta, GA that is directly related to a unique issue addressed by the Fire Code. The fire began in a large pile of old tires located adjacent to a vacant apartment building and eventually spread to the building as well. It was reported that the vacant building had been serving as an, “illegal dumping ground for hundreds of tires”. Reports also suggest that the fire was intentionally set.
NFPA 1, Chapter 33, addresses the outside storage of tires including new and existing outside storage piles of tires and altered tire material, as well as emergency response planning, fire control measures, site access, and signs and security for these areas; it is applicable to facilities with outdoor tire pile storage of more than 500 tires. At this threshold there becomes the potential for large-scale events, such as the 1999 Westley tire fire in California where a lightning strike ignited a tire pile, which contained an estimated 7 million scrap tires. The fire burned for 30 days and significantly impacted the environment due to the runoff of pyrolitic oil and contaminated fire-fighting water. The cost of the fire to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was $3.5 million. If a fire were to occur at outdoor storage of tire piles not more than 500 tires, such as those at a typical retail store, standard fire-fighting guidelines should effectively extinguish the fire in most cases.
The tire fire in Atlanta, while on a much smaller scale (even perhaps below the 500 tire threshold), is still representative of the hazardous conditions that non-compliant tire storage can create. Chapter 33 of the Code addresses these hazards by containing the following requirements:
• Layout of fire department access roads to allow for effective fire-fighting operations and site access. The minimum exposure separation distance for tire storage is based on both the exposed face dimension and the pile height of the tires. It ensures adequate fire department access as well as fuel breaks between the tire piles to prevent fire spread.
• Separation of yard storage facilities from hazardous exposures and structures.
• Prohibition of ignition sources within the tire area. This includes smoking, cutting and welding, heating devices, open fires and/or proximity to power lines.
• Measures to provide for surface water drainage and protection of pyrolitic oil runoff. (Pyrolitic oil in the tires is burned off when the stored tire pile is allowed to burn. But one the pile begins to smolder or suppressed, the tires melt and release pyrolitic oil).
• Limitations on the location of storage piles (no wetlands, flood plains, canyons, etc.)
• Pile storage arrangement
o New tire storage – limited in volume to 125,000 ft2 and no greater than 10 ft in height, 50 ft in width and 250 ft in length.
o Existing piles – must meet the criteria for new piles within 5 years of adoption of the Code but until then they are limited to 250,000 ft2 and must not exceed 20 ft in height, 50 ft in width and 250 ft in length.
• Development, maintenance and use of an Emergency Response Plan.
• Presence of manual fire-fighting equipment.
This fire occurred at a vacant building, which has been accumulating old tires on the property. Section 10.12 of NFPA 1 also requires every person owning or having charge or control of any vacant building or premises to remove all combustible storage, waste, refuse and vegetation and secure the building or premises to prohibit entry by unauthorized persons. Compliance with this section could have prevented the accumulation of old tires on the property. The tire fire in Atlanta shows the important role that both the fire inspectors and building owners play in ensuring compliance with the Code.
Have you had to enforce tire storage facilities in your jurisdiction? What challenges have you faced?
Thanks for reading, stay safe!
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