Russian high-rise blaze highlights dangers of construction site fires

A large fire has devastated a high-rise apartment building undergoing construction in the Russian city of Tver, 100 miles from Moscow.

Videos appearing on social media showed the rapid progress of the fire up the exterior of the building, with thick black smoke being produced accompanied by burning debris.

The building was engulfed in flames in minutes on Thursday 14 March, with shock and alarm expressed online at the speed of growth of the fire along with many questions over the materials involved. Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) reported that the building’s protective cover had been responsible for the dramatic fire and that no injuries were reported. An investigation into the cause of the fire is currently underway.

As reported by the NFPA, “some media [has] report[ed], bitumen, a petroleum product, may have been added to the façade system of the Tver high-rise, which could have also helped fuel the fire. Bitumen-based coatings or sealants may be used in exterior wall systems to provide increased water-resistance or durability.”

Construction sites can be particularly vulnerable to such incidents as the building’s fire safety systems, such as compartmentation and sprinklers, may be at an incomplete stage, whilst potential sources of combustion such as hot works are also likely to be carried out.

As reported by the FPA in November 2023, a fire at a construction site in Reading saw two trapped construction workers needing to be rescued by a crane.

The 10th edition of the Joint Code of Practice for Fire Prevention on Construction Sites has been revised to ensure it continues to address not only long-standing risks such as hot work, but also reflects changes in standards, practice, and the more prevalent use of modern materials and construction methods. The guide is available to download for free from the FPA website here.