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Descriptive Text of the Fire Test of the World Trade Center Office Workstation

This video documents one of a series of fire tests conducted in August 2003 as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's ongoing federal building and fire investigation of the World Trade Center disaster. The goal of this and related tests is to provide input to NIST-developed fire modeling software so that researchers accurately simulate the complex burning of the combustibles in a typical WTC office to determine how the fires on 9-11 contributed to the collapse of the WTC buildings.

The workstation mockup seen it the video is the same one used by insurance broker Marsh & McClennan Companies, a tenant of the WTC 1. The firm occupied the floors where the hijacked aircraft hit the tower.

The mockup was an 8 foot by 8 foot, four-sided cubicle that incorporated:

  • A laminated particle board desk surface on three sides;
  • A bookcase holding 70 pounds of paper products;
  • A largely plastic chair;
  • A computer system; and
  • Nylon-faced carpet tiles.

An additional 65 pounds of paper products were distributed throughout the office setting.

Four other tests were conducted on similar workstation mockups. In two of them, jet fuel was intentionally spilled on the furnishings in order to simulate a unique and potentially influential contribution to the WTC fires from the fuel-laden aircraft.

During the fire test, the workstation was subjected to a 2 megawatt burner adjacent to the outside of one wall panel, simulating the burning of a neighboring cubicle. A ceiling 9 feet above the floor retained the hot combustion gases enhancing the reflection of heat back to the exposed surfaces of the workstation.

The peak heat release rate in this test was 9.9 megawatts, occurring at 8.5 minutes after the start of the test. The fire consumed 386 pounds of combustible materials in 33 minutes.

Created July 2, 2010, Updated August 25, 2016