STORM: an Horizon 2020 research project on heritage and environmental changes

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STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) is a EU research and development project funded in the early 2016 by the EU under the Horizon 2020 program (Call: DRS-11-2015: Disaster Resilience & Climate Change, Topic 3: Mitigating the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on Cultural Heritage sites, structures and artefacts).

STORM will study the impact of climate changes on cultural heritage and the mitigation strategies of their effects on the buildings and artefacts.

The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites.An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included.

Starting from previous research experiences and tangible outcomes, STORM proposes a set of novel predictive models and improved non-invasive and non-destructive methods of survey and diagnosis, for effective prediction of environmental changes and for revealing threats and conditions that could damage cultural heritage sites. Moreover, STORM will determine how different vulnerable materials, structures and buildings are affected by different extreme weather events together with risks associated to climatic conditions or natural hazards, offering improved, effective adaptation and mitigation strategies, systems and technologies. An integrated system featuring novel sensors (intra fluorescent and wireless acoustic sensors), legacy systems, state of the art platforms (including LiDAR and UAVs), as well as crowdsourcing techniques will be implemented, offering applications and services over an open cloud infrastructure. An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included. The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites (from the STORM project website).

One of the main results of the first year of the project has been the course on preparedness and first aid to Cultural Heritage “STORM 2017  Summer School“, held in Rome on 11 to 13 September 2017. The course has been conceived as a test of the 2018 edition.

Preparedness and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in the STORM Summer School

Fire in Moscow library destroy 1 mln books

Fire at the Moscow Academic Institute of Scientific Information
Fire at the Moscow Academic Institute of Scientific Information

On January 31st, 2015, one of Russia’s largest academic libraries, which contains millions of unique historic documents, has been severely damaged by the  flames. A part of the building’s roof collapsed before many of fire fighters teams managed to contain the fire.

The fire has destroyed some 2,000 m2 of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (Inion) in Moscow, created in 1918 and holding 10 mln documents, some of which date back to the 16th century.

The library has been founded in 1918, has the Russia’s most complete collection of documents of the League of Nations, the UN, and UNESCO, as well as parliamentarian reports of the United States (since 1789), the UK (since 1803), Italy (since 1897), and many others.

According to Russian media, investigators looking into the cause of the blaze suspect an electrical short-circuit was to blame.

What happens when water is not enough: the Clandon Park (UK) fire case

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On April 29th, 2015, a fire has destroyed the 18th century Palladian masterpiece of Clandon Park. The fire started in the house’s basement, and quickly spread to the roof. The Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has operated with a total of 16 fire engines and more than 80 personnel.

The timeline of the firefighters’ operations is well described in the Getsurrey page:

http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/clandon-park-fire-firefighters-criticism-10735701

which highlights some problems in water supply.

Although some paintings and furniture were rescued by staff, many tapestries and some items of porcelain were heavily damaged.

Managed by the National Trust since 1956, Clandon Park has been built in the 1720s and, before the fire, contained a large collection of 18th-century furniture, porcelain and textiles.



Earthquakes and Cultural Heritage: a guide for provisional works

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Example of page of the vademecum

Earthquakes pose a big threat to cultural and heritage buildings.
Normally, historic buildings are more vulnerable to seismic actions than ordinary ones. So, also the artifacts that such buildings normally protect are subject to damages, due to the debris and, sometimes, to fires ignited by earthquakes.

In the April 6th 2009 earthquake in Aquila (Italy), there is at least one recorded case of fire ignited by the earthquake in a historical building (a church in the center of Aquila old town).
The most of the damages to cultural heritage in the Aquila earthquake are due to the collapse of the buildings and, for a lesser extent, to the mud that rains have brought the days following the earthquake.

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Real shoring in Aquila 

Continue reading “Earthquakes and Cultural Heritage: a guide for provisional works”

Citè de la Science: 120 firefighters in Paris to extinguish a museum fire

Paris firefighters on August 20th 2015 have fought a fire at the Cite des Sciences. The fire broke out between 02:30 and 03:00 local time in a building that was undergoing work, and has been fought by some 30 fire trucks and 120 firefighters.
Six floors of the museum have been impacted by the blaze, which took five hours to be brought under control.
Many Parisians took to social media to report the smell and seeing plumes of smoke. The building was empty when the fire started.
Wooden pallets, cardboard boxes, plasterbloard, electrical cables have been burning,and the heat was so fierce that firefighting teams were only able to work for 20 minutes at a time before having to be rotated. One of the firefighters was hospitalized with extreme heat exposure while the other suffered light injuries from smoke inhalation.
The complex draws around five million people a year and comprises four huge cube-shaped buildings.
The fire occurred in a 10,000-square metre cube that was being fitted out for shops, and was due to open on October 15. Smoke and flames damaged the area ravaging a 110-million-euro plan to turn the building into an area for shops.
The fire alarm system was not operational because of the works.
The Citè de la Science et de l’industrie complex is one of the biggest science museums in Europe.

Historic District Protection Planning: A Case Study

1Danny Mac Daniels (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) has presented the following theme during the september 20th , 2012, Venice meeting on emergencies in historical centers.

Historic District Protection Planning A Case Study

Lexington, Virginia

The City of Lexington, located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, was established as the town of Lexington in 1778. Today, Lexington has a permanent population of about 7500 with another 4000-5000 students attending Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute from September through May. Lexington is well known for its architecture and historic preservation. Tourism and higher education are its major industries and its downtown is a thriving collection shops and restaurants, many housed in restored buildings dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Lexington is a typical small city in southern America: many buildings in the downtown area have party walls, construction tends to be brick exteriors over wood framing with combustible roofs, and some older buildings are completely wood frame construction. The streets in Lexington, while not as narrow as many streets in Europe, are narrow when compared to the size of most modern fire apparatus.

The Lexington Presbyterian Church Fire

Lexington Presbyterian, a Greek revival style church, was completed in 1845 and it is one of the centerpieces of Lexington’s history and its visual appeal. Lexington was home to Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and he worshipped at the church in the years leading up to the American Civil War. The sanctuary underwent some renovation between 1845 and 2000, but overall the building changed very little and there was no fire detection or fire suppression system installed when in the summer of 2000 the governing board hired a contractor to repaint the exterior of the building. The board, aware that the dry, 155 year old long-leaf yellow pine wood in the building posed a greater fire hazard than newer material, had the contractor chosen for the work demonstrate the hot-iron technique he proposed to use to soften the paint before scrapping it off. The board approved the process and the contractor began work. On Tuesday, July 18, as workmen were using a hot iron to strip paint off of a cornice around the base of the church’s clock tower, the hot iron apparently ignited a fire in the roof area of the wood frame structure that destroyed one sanctuary and caused the clock tower to collapse.

According to fire investigators from the Virginia State Fire Marshall’s Office, workmen removing paint from a cornice at the base of the clock tower noticed smoke at about 9:30 a.m. The workmen searched for the source of the smoke and found a fire inside the clock tower behind the cornice they had been working on. The workmen attempted to extinguish the fire, and when they could not, they notified the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department. Some volunteer firefighters responded quickly, but since it was a normal workday and most of the members were at work, many were delayed getting to the church and calls for mutual aid went out to other nearby jurisdictions. By 10:00 a.m., heavy smoke was pouring out around the base of the clock tower.

Fire fighters began to battle the blaze with ladder pipes shortly after 10:00 a.m., but by that time the fire in the clock tower was fully developed. Firefighters worked to save the clock tower through the morning; however, the combination of the highly combustible wood frame construction of the church and the amount of water needed to fight the blaze put a strain on the city’s aging water system.

At about noon the clock tower finally collapsed. Fire investigators pointed out that the firefighters did an excellent job keeping the fire from spreading to other structures and because of their efforts no one was injured when the clock tower collapsed into the street.

Damage to the building was estimate at $2.5 million, and shortly after the fire the church board announced the church would be restored to its original condition and restoration work began soon afterward. The restoration was substantially completed when a new clock tower was installed on March 5, 2002.

A senior architectural historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources pointed out after the fire that using heat to strip paint on old wood fixtures that are hollow or that cannot be seen from behind, like the cornices that were being stripped at Lexington Presbyterian where rats or birds sometimes build nests, can cause combustible materials to catch fire without workers knowing it.

The Aftermath

In August 2000 the president of the Rockbridge County Historic Society called and asked me to come to Lexington to share information about how Colonial Williamsburg protects its historic buildings and to see if some of those things might be adapted to help Lexington improve protection in its historic district. She also wanted to know how the concepts in the 1997 edition of NFPA 909, Standard for Protection of Cultural Resources might be applied to historic districts. As a first step she arranged a one-day workshop for members of Lexington’s city government, merchants, and other interested parties. The workshop was surprisingly well attended and during the discussions it became evident to the political leaders that much of what made Lexington an attraction for tourism could be lost in a single fire. After the workshop I met with the mayor, the chief of the volunteer fire department, and the president of the Rockbridge County Historic Society to brainstorm ideas to improve fire safety in Lexington’s historic district. In the discussion we identified four major challenges:

• Many of the buildings in the historic district have party walls, and some interconnect at the attic level. The fire department was aware of some of the interconnections; however, the fire chief suspected many more existed that were not on any drawings or building plans.

• The Commonwealth of Virginia has a statewide fire prevention code, but in a city as small as Lexington that has a volunteer fire department no one locally enforces the code and any inspections have to be done by the State Fire Marshall’s office. As with most state agencies, the Virginia State Fire Marshall’s office has a small staff to cover a very large area. In practice, the only inspections the State Fire Marshall’s office can do are in the largest state-owned facilities; so, there is very little, if any, enforcement of fire prevention regulations in privately owned buildings in cities like Lexington.

• Lexington’s aging water supply system was challenged to provide enough water to fight the fire in the church and the fire chief expressed concern about its ability to handle a fire spreading from building to building in the downtown area through interconnecting attics.

• Access is difficult for fire apparatus in many parts of the downtown area because of traffic congestion and narrow streets, particularly during the summer when tourism is at its height.

Two initiatives were undertaken as a result of the discussion:

• The Rockbridge County Historic Society and the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department agreed to

focus efforts on a public education program in fire safety management. To help with the project, local residents with backgrounds in fire protection and fire suppression were recruited to conduct public awareness campaigns, fire safety educational programs, and voluntary fire safety inspections for merchants and home owners. Lexington is a popular retirement area for professionals from urban areas in the northeast United States, and several highly qualified individuals volunteered to assist with the project.

• The Lexington City Council agreed to create a position in the Building Department for an inspector who would devote 50% of his time to building code issues and the other 50% to conducting inspections to enforce the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code.

Lessons Learned

More than a decade has passed and over those years I’ve drawn the following lessons from my experience in Lexington.

1. The fire codes and standards in place at the time, and since, including the most recent editions of NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries and Places of Worship and NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures provide no guidance on planning and implementing fire protection programs for historic districts. The NFPA Cultural Resources Committee has been discussing the issues for several years, and it hopes to provide some guidance on the subject in the 2015 edition of NFPA 914. In 2000, the NFPA Cultural Resources Committee was several years away from the paradigm shift it made in the 2010 and 2013 editions of NFPA 909 and the upcoming 2015 edition of NFPA 914 that take an all-hazards approach to protection planning. The shift was crucial because it focused protection planning efforts on the outcome of a comprehensive vulnerability analysis. Such an approach is especially important when thinking of protection in historic districts where one way to approach the issue is to think of the historic district as a very large multiple use occupancy building with multiple owners /tenants (like an apartment building or condominium). From that perspective the district is analogous to a museum building that contains a collection – that is the individual buildings inside the district – and provides the support infrastructure, utilities, and services to maintain them. The planning issues are similar, as well. For example, egress is a primary concern in both, particularly during an earthquake, flood, or conflagration; however, ingress is also a significant issue for both because the collection (buildings, artifacts, or works of art) must be protected in place and to do that, emergency responders must have ready access. Other common issues include water supply (or lack thereof), occupant notification, fire department response time, fire prevention, security and planning for emergency operations and damage limitation.

2. The assessment we did in Lexington was flawed because it addressed only a few of the vulnerabilities, so the resulting action plans only scratched the surface of the problem. The steps taken in Lexington after the fire in 2000 only addressed two limited aspects of the problem (education and enforcement) but failed to address the significant infrastructure issues (water supply, limited availability of volunteer firefighters during the normal work day, fire department access during the busy summer months in the downtown area, installation of automatic sprinklers, etc.). A comprehensive vulnerability assessment of all the hazards is the key to a successful protection plan in a building or in an historic district.

3. Dividing an inspector between building department duties and fire prevention code enforcement probably is not a sustainable model. Building departments are partially self-sustaining because they generate revenues from building permits and plan reviews while fire prevention activities generate no direct revenue. As a result, when municipalities face budget shortfalls, as they have since 2008, they tend to focus on activities that generate income and that moves fire prevention code enforcement to the back burner. After all, governmental memories are short and fires are low probability events even if the consequences can be devastating.

ICT and Massive Rescue Operations in Historic Districts

1Stefano Marsella (Italian Fire Corps) has shown, during the Venice meeting of 20 september 2012 on emergencies in historical centers, how Italian Firefighters Corps have coordinated hundreds of operations in l’Aquila earthquake using a communications protocol (CAP – common alerting protocol) which have enabled operators on the field to exchange data and receive priorities from the Heritage authority.

The same system made it possible to publish information on the official National Fire Corps website, in order to give the most updated information.

Download the presentation: Marsella

NFPA Committees and Historical Building Safety

1Deborah Freeland (Area Senior Vice President Property Loss Control Arthur J Gallagher & Co.)and Donald Moeller (Principal The Fire Consultants, Inc.) explain the activity of the NFPA Committees 909 e 914 to improve fire protection of cultural and historical heritage.

Download the pdf (without slides with pictures) presented during the september 20, 2012, Venice meeting about emergencies in historical centers: 1

Training staff to emergencies in historical buildings

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Steve Emery, Fire Safety Adviser for English Heritage, has presented in Venice, during the  September 20th international meeting, how English Heritage is training firefighters to rescue operations when historical buildings are interested.

The key points of the presentation are:

1. Standardise Emergency Plans

2. Standardise Training

3. Trainwith Fire Services

4. Maintain the Plans

5. Desktop Exercises

6. Cross Organisation Help and Liaison

7. SalvageEquipment

The presentation: Emery

Fire Safety in Historic Venice Hotel: Risk Control Assessment

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During the 20th september 2012 Venice meeting on emergencies in historic centers the argument of controlling fire risk using CFD techniques has been presented by Andrea Ferrari – Luciano Nigro (Associazione Italiana di Ingegneria Antincendio): The Fire Risk Control effectiveness assessment using correlations, fast running tools and a CFD code in an historic hotel building: A.Ferrari-L._Nigro_a_Venezia

Venice meeting on emergency in Historical Centers

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VENICE – SCUOLA GRANDE DI SAN GIOVANNI EVANGELISTA

20 September 2012: International Workshop  – Protecting historic centres during emergencies

The Italian National Fire Corps (CNVVF) has organized the meeting, which will address to historical centers emergency. The use of IT technologies in this field and the techniques used to put in place provisional works to save historical buildings after an earthquake will be shown, with reference to the l’Aquila earthquake experience.

Some presentation will show problems of fire protection in historical buildings.

Session 1 – Technical codes and case studies
Chairman
Maurizio Crovato (Chief editor of RAI International)

  • 10.00 Nfpa 909 and 914 and statistics Donald Moeller – Deborah Freeland (NFPA)
  • 10.20 Fire standards in Italy: problems and solutions Luca Nassi (CNVVF)
  • 10.40 Toronto Distillery district Fred Leber (Leber/Rubes Inc.)
  • 11.00 Protection of the Historical Architecture and criteria of Equivalent Safety Renata Codello (Soprintendency of Venice)

Break

13.10 Questions and discussion

Break
Session 2 – Emergency management – Chairman Loris Munaro (CNVVF)

DOWNLOAD THE LEAFLET:  Venice Provisional Program – vers. 29.8.2012

Castle destroyed by grass fire

2On 10 March 2012, the castle of Krasna Horka in Slovak Republic caught fire, allegedly due to burning of dry grass by two children who were trying to light cigarettes.
The roof of the castle, the exposition in the Gothic palace and the bell tower were completely destroyed. The heat melted down three bells from the bell tower. The building sustained extensive damage. Initially, it was thought that many of its historic artefacts were destroyed. The vast majority of exhibits remained undamaged and only the upper part of the castle (including collections) was destroyed. The Slovak National Museum stated that 90% of the collections were undamaged.
According to the firemen who intervened during the incident, the fire started as a consequence of incautious burning of dry grass. On 11 March 2012, the police spokesman of the Košice region stated that “the grass caught fire after two boys (aged 11 and 12) attempted to light up a cigarette. Following that, the fire spread and reached the castle

Performance based approach and fire protection of historic buildings

wooden beams inside ceiling of baroque church in Rome
wooden beams inside ceiling of baroque church in Rome

The strategy of protection of historical building against fire risk is different from almost any other type of building. In the most of case, the objective of fire protection, in fact, is preserving occupants of buildings or the their structure.  Sometimes the concern is both. In the case of fire protection of historical buildings, preservation must find solutions that are consistent with the particular needs of the building: such goal needs freedom e cannot be achieved with prescriptive approaches, which have been developed with the typical building in mind.

The most common gap of prescriptive systems, when applied to heritage buildings, in that they do not work well in unique buildings, when the possible solutions are constrained. Frequently encountered constraints include aesthetic objections to:

  • the degree of compartmentation required in the regulations;
  • the inability to meet egress requirements such as the required number of exits or maximum travel distances;
  • The frequent impossibility in installing active fire fighting systems

When these situations occur, designers usually use the equivalency provisions included in most prescriptive regulations. But such provisions normally have been studied for specific occupancy types and must be continually recalibrated as the prescriptive requirements evolve.

In this situation, performance-based regulations allow to meet conservation needs with safety standards provisions.

Explicit goals and objectives for life safety and historic preservation can be applied to performance solutions. Hazards and safety deficiencies should be identified in order to determine compliance options that satisfy safety objectives, respecting historical/aesthetical features. Solutions can be selected from traditional, prescriptive solutions or performance analysis approaches. Using such method, it’s fundamental that all parties involved in the construction understand the significant features that are to be preserved.

Other issues of paramount importance in dealing with fire safety of cultural heritage is the need for special care during:

  • work projects when the structure is particularly vulnerable. When there are temporary collections of combustibles and construction equipment as well as operations that can represent sources of ignition not normally present. Ceilings and walls may be open for repair, exposing combustible structural elements and void spaces that might allow a fire to spread throughout the structure. Existing fire protection equipment may be disabled or removed as a part of the work.
  • special events that may bring large occupant loads, consumption of alcohol that may impair these occupants, and catering or special food preparation activities that can involve additional quantities of combustibles and ignition sources. All activities at special events need to be evaluated and precautions taken to avoid threats.

Conclusion

Performance-based approach can help all the parts interested in preserving and using cultural heritage buildings in reaching safety goals without sacrificing the buildings themselves or their possibility to be used. Fire safety engineering can help in designing safety features as well as special events and construction/renovation works. Existing codes can be used as reference in order to check the performance of the buildings against safety level of common buildings.

Historic Underground Premises and Visitors Safety

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During the international conference on safety issues of rescue operations in underground structures, held in Rome (Italy) on march 3rd, 2011, the argument of visitors’s safety of  secret wartime tunnels in Dover  has been discussed.

The presentation, made by Mr Steve Emery (English Heritage) has focused the attention on how fire safety engineering can be used to improve safety in historical buildings. In particular, the premise are underground. The first tunnels under Dover Castle were constructed in the Middle Ages to provide a protected line of communication for the soldiers. During the Napoleonic Wars, this system of tunnels was expanded to fortify the Castle. Seven tunnels were dug as barracks for the soldiers and officers. These were capable of accommodating up to 2,000 troops.

In May 1940 the tunnels became the nerve centre for ‘Operation Dynamo’ – the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and French troops from Dunkirk’s beaches. In the Cold War the tunnels were further expanded to form a Regional Centre of Government in the event of nuclear war.

The presentation, taken from the Conference proceedings, shows how fire simulations have guided in developing a correct safety management for visitors:

12-45_Emery_Dover_Castle_and_Tunnels

Cultural Heritage and Forest Fires

picture taken from Kosmas Dimitropoulos , Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin paper
picture taken from Kosmas Dimitropoulos , Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin paper

Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing is the art, science, and technology of obtaining reliable information from noncontact imaging and other sensor systems about the Earth and its environment, and other physical objects and processes through recording, measuring, analyzing and representation. The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, devoted to the development of international cooperation for the advancement of photogrammetry and remote sensing and their applications. The society has published on its website among other conference proceedings the paper concerning “fire detection, and 3D fire propagation estimation for the protection of cultural heritage areas”.

The abstract of the paper states that  beyond taking precautionary measures to avoid a forest fire, early warning and immediate response to a fire breakout are the only ways to avoid great losses and environmental and cultural heritage damages. To this end, this paper aims to present a computer vision based algorithm for wildfire detection and a 3D fire propagation estimation system. The main detection algorithm is composed of four sub-algorithms detecting:

  • (i) slow moving objects,
  • (ii) smoke-coloured regions,
  • (iii) rising regions,
  • (iv) shadow regions.

After detecting a wildfire, the main focus should be the estimation of its propagation direction and speed. If the model of the vegetation and other important parameters like wind speed, slope, aspect of the ground surface, etc. are known; the propagation of fire can be estimated. This propagation can then be visualized in any 3D-GIS environment that supports KML files.

Fireworks and Cultural buildings safety

text and picture from wikipedia
text and picture from wikipedia

On 9 February 2009 the Beijing Television Cultural Center has been damaged by a massive blaze. The building, in the centre of Beijing, was adjacent to the CCTV Headquarters. At 8:27 p.m. the entire building caught fire on the last day of the festivities marking the Chinese new year and was put out six hours later. A nearby unauthorised fireworks display caused the fire.

The cause of the fire has been linked to a massive Chinese New Year fireworks display in the compound, authorized by CCTV itself, without the permission or participation from Beijing police, the Beijing Fire Department, Beijing City government, or any other governmental department.

CCTV had ignored three consecutive police interventions and warnings and had four television cameras trained on the multi-million yuan fireworks, which consisted of nearly 700 high explosive pyrotechnic devices.

Six hundred firefighters arrived on the scene to fight the blaze, which lasted five hours and caused one death and seven injuries.

The fire began on the building’s roof and spread to the lower floors, fed by high winds. Toxic fumes and a lack of working sprinklers were said to have hampered efforts to extinguish the fire.

The complex’s main building, the doughnut-shaped structure, was not damaged. The building, which was originally scheduled to open in 2009, did not seen any progress towards opening or being visibly repaired by the end of that year.

Egyptian Museum and the Threat of Riots Fires in Cairo (Egypt)

1The potential collapse of a neighboring building caused by fire due to the riots has threatened the priceless artifacts kept in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.  Even if the risk of looting has been minimized by Egyptian army commandoes, on 28th January, 2011, the ruling party headquarters building next door to the museum was in flames. The protesters torched it during the mass anti-government protests which swept across the capital. Eventually, the building did not collapse, but if destroyed, it would have fallen over the museum.

Previously, some Egyptians armed with truncheons, created a human chain at the museum’s front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its artifacts.Some looters have had the possibility to vandalize two mummies, ripping their heads off , taking some small artifacts out of their glass cases and clearing out the museum gift shop.

In the same days, rumors that attacks were planned against monuments prompted authorities to erect barriers and guard Karnak Temple while tanks were positioned around Luxor’s museum.

Termites, Worms, Xylophagous and Fire Protections in Museums

Marble statues (in picture the Uffizi's Laocoonte group) are among the few artifacts not subject to worms attacks in museums
Marble statues (in picture the Uffizi's Laocoonte group) are among the few artifacts not subject to worms attacks in museums

In some cases, fire protection systems can be useful also to improve the environment of museums and galleries, like the active fire protection measures that replaces the air within a protected space with inert air that has reduced oxygen concentration. The different concentrations of the components of air are slightly altered (typically, five percent of the oxygen content can be substituted by nitrogen) and are  safe to breathe for most people but prevent fire ignition in many materials.

Even if in the specific case of the Florence gallery low oxygen concentration systems weren’t used, the typical problems of improving the environment are  similar to the ones faced by the Florence Galleria degli Uffizi, that has decontaminated by termites more than 400 masterpieces. The war on insects in one of the most famous museums in the world is in full swing. Xylophagous, a presence in typical environments with wooden structures such as museums or collections, will be eradicated by a new conservation work carried out by management and the staff of the Gallery. Will be cleared also the doors of the Gallery Room of the precious miniatures.

Uffizi Gallery is currently organizing the chemical treatment of all the doors of the Gallery and restoration of wooden decorations of the Hall of Miniatures. But the works of greatest importance and size are the altarpiece The Coronation of the Virgin by Lorenzo Monaco, Coronation of the Virgin by Botticelli and the triptych with the Adoration of the Shepherds by Hugo van der Goes. Such interventions are urgent and delicate and have to be carried out without moving the artifacts and without hindrance to the public, since two of these paintings are housed in a room which is relevant to Botticelli.’

Of particular importance was the work on the altarpiece by Lorenzo Monaco was considered improcrastinabile for the state of conservation work and run into the front of the painting, which is almost five meters high, a sheet of special material, combined with the upright skylight to form a closed bag. Inside the bag was put to the nitrogen saturation of the environment, thus enabling the elimination of larvae and eggs in the wood.

The operation was conducted with constant monitoring of the parameters of moisture, temperature, pressure, concentration of nitrogen pressure, residual oxygen and ended with a treaty of protection from future attacks. The tests performed on the altarpiece in 2009 has identified a specific method and an apparatus adapted to the pest control technology of large-scale works and in 2010.

Arson in Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona (Spain)

bA disturbed man has started a fire on April 19th 2011 in Barcelona’s Cathedral Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudì’s masterpiece. The man of around 55 has been found with several lighters in his pocket.

Around 1000 people were evacuated from the cathedral, which is one of the most popular tourist sites in Spain’s second-largest city.  The blaze was extinguished and four people were treated for smoke inhalation. The fire seems to have caused a significant damage to the sacristy where it was ignited and it burned for about 45 minutes.

The fire occurred in the church’s crypt, where prests prepare for Mass, open for religious purposes and it caused some damage to the crypt. The church has been temporarily closed to the public.

Some tourists saw smoke coming from inside the sacristy and alerted authorities.

Montmartre Theatre Fire in Paris (France)

6A major fire on March 21st, 2011,  broke inside the Elysee Montmartre Theatre. Paris fire department received the first calls for help came at about 7:45 am from buildings adjacent to the theater. The interior was extensively damaged due to the fact that the theater held many fabrics and wooden pieces and was full of flammable materials. Apparently, the roof burned and its collapse caused an increase of air, and a bigger fire. The entire stage burned down and the fire spewed plumes of smoke over the Montmartre neighborhood.

The fire was under control by approximately 11:30. It is believed that the conflagration was caused by a short-circuit. 26 fire engines and 16 rescue centers have been mobilized.

The fire has destroyed a two-century-old theater, birthplace of French cabaret-style cancan dancing. The internal structural supports were designed by Gustave Eiffel, famed for the Eiffel Tower.