February 13, 2010

Looking for a Bowstring-Truss Roof (and Other Structural Types)

As part of an ongoing firefighting class, I spent part of the morning riding around Florence, Colo., in their Engine 29 on a scavenger hunt for NFPA building types.

RIGHT: Florence's Engine 29 back in its bay.

Let's see .. the Elks Club, three-story brick construction, maybe late 1890s. That would be Type III, Ordinary Construction, with a fire-resistant exterior. "Interior structural members vulnerable to fire involvement."

In other words, the inside is mostly wood. It burns, and then the brick walls collapse spectacularly. "Susceptible to water damage."

Parapet on front wall—would not want ladders going up on that side.  Hmm. Fire escape could fall off if the walls start to give. Commercial kitchen in concrete-block addition.

And then C____ puts Florence's Engine 29 in gear, and we go off to look for a bowstring-truss roof .

Lots of local knowledge in that department. Name a building, and someone has worked in it or helped to build or remodel it. Consequently, they know that, for instance, the former car dealership downtown has a second "rain roof" in the back and various weird enclosed spaces underneath. Or which Main Street stores have old cast-iron fascias.

I start to unwind driving home, looking at the forest. But we have a different set of fears.

Most houses here are smaller, one or two-story structures. A few bigger "trophy homes." Churches, stores, former school-turned-library. Many are adjacent to forested land, part of the "urban interface."

My other big fear, however, are the big barns and stables. Large open spaces, hay and dust, large panicky animals—all scary. I am chilled to my bones just thinking about them.  I drive by one huge horse barn a couple of times a week, thinking, "Don't burn. Please don't ever burn."

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