While the news coverage of the Brazil museum fire has largely focused on the fact that it was a museum that burned—raising questions over the value society places on preserving artifacts—the fact that it was a historic building is just as significant.
Museums or not, historic buildings are at high risk for catastrophic fires unless modern fire and life safety systems have in some way been added to them, and the incident in Brazil was the latest in a series of recent, massive blazes in historic buildings. In June, fire gutted a 110-year-old building in Glasgow, Scotland, that was being used as a library by the Glasgow School of Art, and in August, a fire spread through a 233-year-old retail building in Belfast, Ireland.
The problem of fires in historic buildings is a well-documented one, and solutions do exist. NFPA 914, Fire Protection of Historic Structures, outlines measures that can be taken to protect historic buildings from fires, including installing automatic fire sprinklers. But too often, these solutions aren't implemented.
Read why in "Saving History," available now and which will appear in the November/December 2018 issue of NFPA Journal.