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Tower Inferno - Fire rips through Oriental Technopolis in Taiwan

Location: Oriental Technopolis, New Taipei City, Taiwan


Date:2001.05.12
Structure: Four-building high-rise complex, with 26 stories in each building
Fatalities and injuries: 0 was killed and two fire fighters were slightly injured
Cost of damage: NT$50 billion
Duration of Fire: 43 hours
Cause: Oil Lamp

In May 12, 2001. A longest burning fire in Taiwan history started in Oriental Technopolis in
New Taipei City. The Oriental Technopolis is a four-building high-rise complex, with total 236
high-tech companies, including those of Taiwan computer giant Acer Inc. It broke down records
in Taiwan with the longest burning fire with 43 hours burning duration, and the costly fire with
nearly 50 billion NT dollars of costs of properties. Fortunately, no one was killed, only two fire
fighters were slightly injured in the rescue action.

Fig.1 Fire in Oriental Technopolis - United Daily News


The fire started at 4:00 am at Saturday morning in the third floor of the Oriental Technopolis.
The source of ignition is an oil lamp in an office located in A building. After the fire fighting action,
the fire was reported controlled at 6:15. However, due to the high temperature, the fire fighters
were not able to get into the building to determine whether the fire had been put out exactly. At
6:30, the fire was rekindled and spread to the fourth floor and the shafts of 5th and 7th floor. From
08:28 to 09:53 am, sporadic fire spot continuously founded on third and fourth floor. However,
the action of fire fighters was impeded due to the poor access to the offices. At 10:09 am, the fire
fighter successfully controlled the main fire again, and try to put out the remain fire spot. At 12:40,
there were shouldering areas in the shaft on 5th and 7th floor, and the smoke was severe over these
floors. At 13:49 pm, the tallest fire truck in Taiwan with 72-meter ladder, which was able to reach
22 floors height, was put in to the rescue action. At 19:00 pm, the fire extended to 9th and 10th
floors, and 16th floor, on which a makeup company was located. With the involvement of
combustible materials, the fire went severe on the 16th floor, while the height exceeded the
maximum height that the fire truck could reach. At 20:54 pm, the fire on 16th floor was reported
out of controlled. The fire safety agency called out from other cities for more fire trucks and fire
fighters. At 22:30, the fire spread from 16th floor to 20th floor. At 22:46pm, fire trucks from Taipei
city, Taoyuan city and Keelung city are also involved. On May 13th, the fire still spread out to 21th
to 26th floor and moved horizontally toward the 25th and 26th floor of the B building. At 18:00, the
fire fighter successfully controlled the fire, groups of fire fighters were assigned to every floor for
further protection and settlement. At 20:00, fire spot was found on the 20th floor of C building, fire
fighters successfully put out the fire in an hour. At 22:00 pm, it was announced that the firefighting
mission was completed. The fire last for 43 hours, broke down the longest duration record in the
fire history in Taiwan.

The Oriental Technopolis is a four-building high-rise complex SRC structural system with 26
stories each building, and 5 stories basements. The Building A, B and C are arranged as a triangle,
while the D building was located at the west side of the complex. The building layout is shown in
Fig 2. The 1st to 3rd floor and the basement are connected in the A, B and C building. From 6th
floor to 26th floor, the out wall is constructed as curtain wall system with 8mm high strength
reflective glass. The total area of the complex is 300,000m2 with 2,800m2/floor in A building
3,100m2/floor in B building, 2800 m2/ floor in C building and 2400m2/floor in D building.
Fig. 2 Building layout of Oriental Technopolis

After investigation, it was reported that the combination of the following factors deteriorated
the disaster. First, fire was controlled in the 3rd to 5th floor at the beginning. However, due to the
bad designed of shafts, the fire quickly spread to other floors, Exceeding the maximum height that
the tallest fire truck can reach. Second, the curtain wall of the building could not stop fire came
from the lower floor. The curtain wall was made of tempered glass, which is hard to destroy from
outside for the fire fighters. Third, the sprinklers were not functional since the fire pump was broke
down. Without the sprinkler, the fire in 20th to 26th floor went out of controlled. Forth, all the roller
shutters were locked at the weekend, made the fire fighter hard to have access to the fire spot. Fifth,
the building violated the building code. According to the building code No.79 in Taiwan, the area
of compartment should be less than 1500 m2. It is reported that there are 7 illegally demolish of
fire walls between buildings and 24 illegally demolish of fire walls between offices. These illegally
action deteriorated smoldering and Chimney effect. After years of investigation, the organ of
prosecution and investigation also prosecuted many officers for corruption in the fire security
check.
Under the judgment of experts after fire, the repair implements were adopted for the damage
structure shown in Fig 3. There are 124 offices classified as disaster victims. Three categories of
disaster victim are classified. First group contained 71 offices with no structural damage, only
clearance implemented. The second group contained 27 offices, with slightly damage in beams,
and crack in the slab. Repair could be done easily. The third group contained 26 offices with severe
damage in structure. Implement of complicated repairs were needed. After years of construction,
the Oriental Technopolis was successfully repaired and went back to service in 2010.

A combination of many factors turned the fire into a disaster, which was also known as man-
made disasters. The failure of the fire safety check and illegal demolish of the compartments made
the fire unstoppable. Fortunately, nobody was killed in the fire, and the structure did not collapse,
but only loss of property. This fire raised questions about the building safety standard and force
the government to reexam the fire protection in the building code for the high-rise building. Also,
how to exactly implement the fire safety check for high-rise building is another issue for the
government to solve.

Fig. 3 Structure damages of Oriental Technopolis after fire

Reference

• Chang Po-Ya, Review Report of the fire in Oriental Technopolis (2001), The 7th meeting
of the Legislative Yuan Committee.
• Integration of facilities and structure in the fire safety design based on the case study of
the Oriental Technopolis fire (2001). Taipei Architects Association.
• Hsiao Cheng Hsun, The lessons learn from the Oriental Technopolis fire (2015), China
Times