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Venting High-Rise Fires


PPV fans work well when set-up in the attack stairwell. Also consider PPV fans in the stairwell used for egress. With all ventilation, coordination and planning will assist in a successful ventilation strategy. Photo courtesy NIST

High-rise buildings are normally difficult to vent because it’s not as simple as removing a few windows. Options include:

  • Removing windows. With this option, you must take into account the high winds on upper levels of the building. In addition, removal of glass should be done only if the glass can be brought inside and the street below is cleared as a precaution.
  • Use the HVAC system to pressurize the fire area with fresh air. This will require the assistance of building personnel familiar with the building’s systems.
  • Use positive pressure ventilation (PPV) fans into the attack stairway. Use the PPV fans to build pressure in the stairway. Then, open the door in that stairway on the fire floor and at roof level. This will allow the smoke to move in the path created by the fans.

Regardless of the method, any ventilation taking place in a high-rise building must be coordinated and controlled, and all members must be aware that it’s taking place. The IC should be the one making all decisions about ventilation and operating personnel should report any adverse or positive effects of the ventilation to the IC.