Fire at Manezh Exhibition Center in Moscow (Russia)

Night image of the indoor riding academy in Moscow (Russia) called Manezh, which has been severely damahed on 14 March, 2004, by a fire (Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

On March 14, 2004, a fire broke out in at the Manezh (or Manege) exhibition hall in Moscow. The historic building (built in 1817) has been almost completely destroyed by fire and two firefighters have been killed as the huge roof of the exhibition hall caved in.

The fire could have been caused by a powerful ejection of thermal energy created with the help of flammable liquids or pyrotechnic materials, even if it’s very difficult to prove such theory. The official investigation attributed the fire to a short circuit.

The giant hall (about 7,500 m2 – 166 meters long and 45 meters wide) with a self-supporting roof was considered a great breakthrough in construction techniques. Originally meant for military exercises, reviews and parades, it later housed exhibitions and was used for public exhibitions.

The fire started at the Manezh and spread across the entire building very quickly. At 21:00 on Sunday, the guards of the exhibition center walked around the building, and none of them smelt smoke. Fourteen minutes later, a traffic police officer reported a large fire in the upper floor of the Manezh.

The attic and the roof of the building were built of wood, and, in principle, they could burn quickly,but it is difficult to set them on fire. The floor of the attic was made of 40mm thick wooden planks and it was protected with fire-resistant materials three years ago, so investigators gave up all the three initial theories – cigarette, short circuit and firework.

On February 18, 2005, the fully restored Manege recommenced its operations as an exhibition hall, featuring the same exposition initially planned for the day of the fire.

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