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How Fire Resistance Affects Chemical Storage Buildings

Fire resistant chemical storage building
Black and white historic photograph of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV burning from an electrical fire
Source – Wikimedia
On November 21, 1980, an electrical fault in its deli sparked a devastating fire in the MGM Grand Hotel of Las Vegas. The fire spread to the large casino area where it was escalated due to the availability of fuel and absence of sprinklers. To make matters worse the fire warning system never activated and approximately 3,400 hotel guests had no warning of the need to evacuate. By the time the fire was extinguished, 85 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured. Smoke inhalation was the main cause of death and injury. An analysis of the building structure after the event revealed a lack of fire resistance. Stairways, elevator shafts, heating ventilation, and air conditioning systems created open pathways for spreading toxic smoke throughout the building. Implementing fire resistance means creating barriers that resist the spread of fire. The barriers segregate a building or parts of a building to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. The incident highlights the critical importance of sealing one part of a building from another in a fire event to prevent it spreading and give people more time to evacuate.

Standards for Fire-Rated Storage Buildings

The International Building Code (IBC) provides guidelines for building systems. It covers a broad range of subjects including materials of construction, stability, ventilation, light and sanitation. Chapter 7 of the IBC covers fire and smoke protection features. The code describes fire-resistance-ratings as the amount of time which a building element, component or assembly maintains the ability to confine a fire and or continues to perform its given structural function. Fire barriers are fire-resistance-rated wall assembly designed to restrict the spread of fire. A fire partition restricts the spread of fire, but also protects openings in the wall. This normally applies to exit routes. Fire walls extend continuously from the foundation to or through the roof and must keep their structural stability under fire conditions. A horizontal assembly is a fire-resistance-rated floor or roof assembly, which acts as a barrier for fire and smoke.

Fire Resistance Test Methods

ASTM E119 uses a test piece of wall, partition, floor or roof, as well as load bearing elements. A controlled fire is applied to the piece keeping the temperature in a predefined range throughout the test period. The test requires measurement of the transmission of heat and hot gases through the piece. Where applicable, its load carrying ability is also measured. UL is a global testing and certification company. They perform fire-resistance tests on products to validate their conformance to regulations and codes. UL has adopted the E119 test as their test standard UL 263. UL expresses fire-resistance-ratings in hours. The rating represents the period during which the specimen continues to meet the test requirements. Common fire-resistance categories are 2-hour ratings or 4-hour ratings when it comes to chemical storage buildings.

Fire Resistance Wall Construction

U.S. Chemical Storage supplies 2-hour and 4-hour fire rated chemical storage buildings. Use 2-hour Fireloc buildings when locating flammable and combustible chemical storage within 10 to 30 feet of occupied facilities or property lines. Fireloc buildings with unidirectional fire resistance are lined with multiple layers of UL classified fire resistant gypsum wallboard. This prevents a fire inside the building from spreading to other areas. Fireloc buildings with bi-directional wall construction have the added security of fire-resistant design on the exterior walls. Gypsum board lines both internal and external walls. Use 4-hour Superloc buildings when locating flammable and combustible chemical storage within 10 feet or less of an occupied building or property line. Multiple layers of UL classified fire resistant gypsum wallboard line both internal and external wall, conforming to NFPA standards. Mineral wool insulation fills the gap between internal and external walls.

Contact U.S. Chemical Storage for Fire-Resistant Chemical Storage Solutions

U.S. Chemical Storage supplies chemical storage buildings that are non-fire-rated, 2-hour fire rated or 4-hour fire-rated. Our buildings have UL and Warnock Hersey approval and meet the requirements of NFPA 30 and the IBC. Let our experts help supply custom fire-rated chemical storage for your applications. Find out more here.


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