FIR 4311 UNIT III Case Study




On November 2, 2012 a two and a half story wood frame house in Chicago caught fire. A captain with the Chicago Fire Department passed away from injuries sustained while trying to put out the fire. The fire battalion responded to the single family house fire. The Captain was behind a steel-faced wood-framed door. The door failed from the elevated temperature and collapsed inward, which let the fire out of the adjacent room and caused horizontal ventilation. The Captain was overtaken by the heat and went down before he could exit to safety. The other members of the fire crew in the house were able to drag the Captain out of the burning building. They performed CPR on the injured Captain and took the Captain to the hospital where he later passed away (NIST, 2014). This case study will explore reasons the fire started, how the fire became uncontrolled, and how it could have been prevented.

Codes and Materials

The residential building was constructed with a balloon-frame construction type. In balloon-frame building, the exterior walls are assembled with wood studs that run continuously from the basement to the roof. Balloon-frame construction was popular between the late 1800s and the mid-1900s (Fire Inspector: Principles and Practice, (Revised Enhanced First Edition.). (2016). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning). Since the house was constructed with the balloon-frame construction type, we know that the house is very old and may not have had many building code updates. Balloon-frame construction is not permitted by today’s newer codes without fire blocking (Fire Inspector: Principles and Practice, (Revised Enhanced First Edition.). (2016). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning). Fire blocking in stud walls is required in wood framed buildings to stop drafts in the cavities between framing members. These spaces can create drafts that will allow fire to spread. These cavities actually promote the rate in which a fire can grow (, fire blocking, 2012). The fire in the house started in the attic and quickly spread to the second floor of the house. We can assume that this building did not have fire blocking materials in the frame of the house due to the fire spreading from the attic to the second floor. A lesson that can be learned from this fire is that building codes should be adhered to and buildings should be updated to protect homes from fires. This home should have had fire blocking materials installed in the frame to prevent fire spreading. The house was built with a wood frame and wood walls. The wood acts as a fuel and allows the fire to spread. The interior walls were made of gypsum board, which is also known as sheetrock. The gypsum board is a panel used to build walls around the frame of a house. The gypsum board is noncombustible and helps prevent the fire from spreading. The door was steel-faced wood-framed door which will deter the fire from spreading, but the intense heat from the fire eventually caused the door to fail. When the door failed it caused horizontal ventilation in the house, which caused the fire to spread to the next room where the Captain was located.


In conclusion, the type of construction, types of materials used, and adhering to building codes can prevent a fire from spreading quickly. Containing a fire to one area of the building gives the fire professionals more time to put the fire out. The containment of a fire may prevent the fire from spreading and becoming a total loss to the building owner. Since the house was a balloon-frame construction it allowed the fire to spread quickly and become very intense prior to the fire department arriving at the scene. Had the house been constructed of fire resistive materials the fire would not have spread as quickly as it did. The fire would have been much smaller when they arrived and the Captain’s life may have been spared.


(NIST, 2014) Retrieved from:

(Fire Inspector: Principles and Practice, (Revised Enhanced First Edition.). (2016). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning).

(, 2012) Retrieved from: