There was a fire in one of the units of my highrise in the past year. One
of the tenants said that that there was so much smoke that it was hard to f
ind his way through the hallway to the stairwell. Obviously, this means th
at smoke billowed into the stairwell when the door was opened by those gett
ing to the stairwell. For a month or two afterward, there was an industria
l size HEPA filter on the floor on which the fire occurred. I'm pretty sur
e there was no specific cleaning of the hallway, but I could be wronga bout
that. However, I would be shocked if there was even the slightest thought
of cleaning the stairwell.
I use to climb the entire stairwell for exercise -- twice a day. This was a
fter the fire. However, I've been reading of the residue that can be left
behind after a fire. Is it unwise to use the stairwell for exercise? This
question is relevant to highrises in general because with that many units,
I'm sure that the probability of fire having occured and pumped smoke into
the stairwell is quite high. Likely proportional to the age of the buildi
On 9/20/2014 7:17 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
in the past year. One of the tenants said that that
there was so much smoke that it was hard to find his
way through the hallway to the stairwell. Obviously,
this means that smoke billowed into the stairwell when
the door was opened by those getting to the stairwell.
For a month or two afterward, there was an industrial
size HEPA filter on the floor on which the fire occurred.
I'm pretty sure there was no specific cleaning of the
hallway, but I could be wronga bout that. However, I
would be shocked if there was even the slightest thought
of cleaning the stairwell.
twice a day. This was after the fire. However, I've
been reading of the residue that can be left behind after
a fire. Is it unwise to use the stairwell for exercise?
This question is relevant to highrises in general because
with that many units, I'm sure that the probability of
fire having occured and pumped smoke into the stairwell
is quite high. Likely proportional to the age of the
I'd make some calls local to you. Maybe someone already
tested the air for chemicals?
There "should" be some air exchanges, and it "should"
be a low risk.
Christopher A. Young
Learn about Jesus
Do you have any symptom(s)? Genetically do you have strong, healthy
bronchial passages and lungs? How many stories are you climbing?
In my working days in downtown, I used to climb 180 feet tower staircase
up/down for United way fund raising. I don't think I can do it now. Even
keeping up with my band playing euphonium is enough as is, LOL!
e of the tenants said that that there was so much smoke that it was hard to
find his way through the hallway to the stairwell. Obviously, this means
that smoke billowed into the stairwell when the door was opened by those ge
tting to the stairwell. For a month or two afterward, there was an industr
ial size HEPA filter on the floor on which the fire occurred. I'm pretty s
ure there was no specific cleaning of the hallway, but I could be wronga bo
ut that. However, I would be shocked if there was even the slightest thoug
ht of cleaning the stairwell.
after the fire. However, I've been reading of the residue that can be lef
t behind after a fire. Is it unwise to use the stairwell for exercise? Th
is question is relevant to highrises in general because with that many unit
s, I'm sure that the probability of fire having occured and pumped smoke in
to the stairwell is quite high. Likely proportional to the age of the buil
*Generally speaking stairwells are usually fire-rated to permit safe passag
e. Consequently they are sealed pretty tight and have very little ventilat
ion. Quite possibly there is residue of some sort from the fire that you e
xperienced. I would think insurance would cover the cleaning. You might tr
y contacting your local health officials for guidance and perhaps assistanc
e. Otherwise, an environmental engineer should be able to arrange testing
On Saturday, September 20, 2014 7:17:40 PM UTC-4, email@example.com
On Saturday, September 20, 2014 7:30:42 PM UTC-4, Stormin Mormon
I have had experience with privately owned & run highrises. There is
a conflict of interest between the profitability of the business and
doing everything that should be done. Hence, I don't hold a lot of
hope for getting accurate & complete info with reasonable effort.
Hence, I am just trying to get an idea of what can be typically
expected. Of course, there is probably a diversity of what can be
expected, so I'm also hoping to get a sense of how broad that range
is. In other words, just trying to exercise good judgement based on
What is "air exchange"?
I apologize, but I should have clarified that the stairwell is the
fire stairwell. Or that's how it's normally looked upon as. It might
be perceived as being rarely used, which would certainly be true. The
norm is to use the lift. So there might be less concern with testing.
Possibly none. There is *no* vent in either of the 20-storey
stairwells, but sometimes, there is air coming from under the
stairwell door at a few floors.
On Saturday, September 20, 2014 7:53:55 PM UTC-4, Frank wrote:
That's what I initially thought for more than a year using the
stairwell for exercise. However, I've been doing some reading, and it
seems that the residue coating surfaces can be filmy or powdery. I
basically did the following search:
Filmy is probably good, powdery is not as it can become airborne with
disturbance. Perhaps someone running up the stairs and breathing
heavily. The particulates of concern are less than 10 microns, and
are not visible to the human eye. I am inclined not to do this
exercise anymore, which is a big sacrifice (the time required to go to
a gym is simply not available). Hence I wanted to get a check on what
is likely, based on people's experience, not just not just what is
possible based on the internet.
On Saturday, September 20, 2014 9:05:15 PM UTC-4, John G wrote:
I agree that stairwells are built in general to withstand fire. OUr
stairwells seem to have cement walls, with exception of some of the
faces (I will check later tonight). However, there is some air
coming in from under the stairwell doors at some floors, so it's not
About getting information, please see my comment above about privately
owned & run highrises.
On Saturday, September 20, 2014 9:05:33 PM UTC-4, firstname.lastname@example.org
That's what I've been assuming for over a year, exercising. Just
wanted to check with people who may be experienced in the area of
smoke damage, since doing the readings I mentioned above. Oftentimes,
dangerous particulates are not detectable by human smell (e.g.,
asbestos). If this is not the case with fire damage, so much the
better, and my wishful thinking was accurate.
It is known fire fighters have higher rate of cancer than average.
Today's building materials are mostly man made which is more
carcinogen/toxic. Any how living in high rise complex is not a good
life style. We animals should be living with both feet on the ground.
I know for a fact flight crews have more miscellaneous sickness which is
not yet detrimental to their routine lives.(medically speaking)
On 9/20/2014 9:35 PM, email@example.com wrote:
When people started to super insulate buildings to
cut down the heating and cooling costs,people started
to get sick. We find out that in the old days, outdoor
air would get in, and the indoor air with chemicals
would get out. "Exchange" new air, for old. Without
the ventilation, the ordinary chemicals were a problem.
A fire stair might be isolated from the ventilation
system, and might not replace old air with outdoor
air as often.
On Sat, 20 Sep 2014 16:17:40 -0700 (PDT), firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
I don't see why it would have billowed, unless there was a substantial
exitway for the air to the outside higher up the stairway, so that it
had a draft like a good chimney. In practice, but you can check, the
top of the stairwell is probably a steel door to the roof, which
probably was't opened becaues of a fire in one apartment.
I don't think I would count open doors from the hall to the stairwell on
higher floors, because, and you can check, all the hall windows are
probably closed, and the doors to the apartments are probably closed.
(Don't highrises all have springs on the apartment doors so they will
close automatically. Or is that just NYC?)
So I think if the smoke were to enter the stairwell in any great
quantity during the fire, I think it would be by natural dispersion,
more than air currents. And that same dispersion would cause the smoke
to leave the stairwell when doors to other floors are opened and even
when the door to the floor with the firre is open, once the smoke is out
of that hall.
So I think it's fine.
You could also look for flat areas in the stairwell that would not
normally be cleaned by anyone, and see if any particulate has settled on
them. Of course even in normal times, everything horizontal can use
dusting once in a while so you have to allow for that. You could put
down, even tape down, some clean white paper in areas where no one will
remove it right away and check how clean it stays. They don't have to
be big. If you think they'll be removed, put a sign, "Experiment.
Don't remove until November 1." When I moved to Brooklyn, my brother
who I lived with lived on the fifth floor and I would run up the stairs
and lose track of what floor I was on. No floor numbers in stair well.
I didn't want to go to floor 6, so I taped 2" squares of white paper
with a 5 and a 4, hand written, two or three steps down from the 5th and
4th floors. Within a month, the management had put up commerically
made numbers on every floor in the stair well.
Six months later I got my own apartment, also on the fifth floor of
another building. Did the same thing. These stairs were not separated
by walls or doors from the floors of the building, but still, within 2
months commericially made numbers, firmly attached, went up on every
floor of the building on the wall that someone coming up the stairs
In each case, I forget if they left my numbers or not.
I have a Ph.D. in fire-scene reconstruction from Disneyland University
and Tattoo Parlor.
On Saturday, September 20, 2014 10:14:22 PM UTC-4, micky wrote:
I'm sure there was no draft. But the speculation of billowing is
based on the fact that a friend's apartment on the same floor got an
extreme amount of smoke damage, and the door to the stairwell isn't
that much different than the door to the friend's apartment. If the
smoke was so concentrated that a tenant cannot find his way to the
stairwell by sight, then it must have been so concentrated that
opening the stairwell door must have released a lot of it into the
Yes, ours do. And the hallways have no windows. Both sides of the
hallways have apartment units, as do the ends of the hallways. But as
I describe above, there was a lot of smoke in the hallway of the floor
where the fire occurred, and it certainly made its way into the other
apartment units. I'm assuming that the entry of smoke into the
stairwells was not much different. The seals on the stairwell doors
aren't great, and there is a draft coming into the stairwell from some
I hope I managed to paint a more complete picture of how much smoke
there was in the floor with the fire.
Frankly, the stairwell is *never* cleaned. I don't think I've ever seen
dirt removed in the 1+ year that I've been using them for exercise.
Strangely, though, the banisters don't seem to have a layer of dust.
Maybe because no one ever uses the stairwells. I seem to recall that
dust is from human/animal skin, so if there is no usage, maybe that's
why there is no dust. However, it is not the visible dust that I'm
concerned about. A browsing on the web for documents on fire,
smoke-damage, and health indicate that the problem is particulates
less than 10 micron diameter. The damage is described as both grime
and powder. I would prefer grime because at least it won't become
airborne with agitation, e.g., some foolish health enthusiast running
up the stairs.
Does that teach you the science of smoke damage and remediation?
Stariwells and such are (under most codes) are not isolated from
ventilation. In fact, in most, especially high rises, are usually
ventilated specifically to remove smoke from the area. (On a high rise
you can't really send the Truckies up to the top floor to cut a hole in
the roof like they do in a house.).
?Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive,
but what they conceal is vital.?
It's been a lot of years, but I remember hearing
of positive pressure stair wells. Someone figured
out to pump outdoor air in, which helps keep the
stairwells smoke free. Not sure anyone does this
Christopher A. Young
Learn about Jesus
On Sunday, September 21, 2014 4:08:26 PM UTC-4, email@example.com wrote:
icularly in taller office buildings.
This is a 20 storey residential highrise, built in the early 80's. There a
re no vents at all.
About how much it would cost to clean -- not sure, but it's 2 stairwells, e
ach spanning 20 stories. I don't see the management doing this because it
typically takes a lot of effort to push for much more obvious duty obligati
ons. My current course of action is simply to get the opinion of those wit
h experience in smoke damage. That is, the opinion of what one can typical
ly expect in terms of likely contamination at a level that can be problemat
ic. In seeking this opinion, I assume that apartment highrises are likely
to have had fires simply because of the concentration of dwellings using a
common stairwell. In effect, I am assuming that this is a common scenario,
hence any such opinion would be well grounded in reality, i.e., I am hopef
ully not asking for opinions on an obscure situation.
OP should perform the smoking shoelace test from the other thread to see if
there's any ventilation. Without hermetic rubberized submarine-type hatch
seals, its hard to believe there's *no* air flow in a long internal "tube"
that opens to the roof. In one high rise I lived in, the stairs and
elevator shafts would whistle when the wind was at the right speed - proof
there was air flowing!
The drill instructor "white glove" test will answer the question of
particulates floating around in the stairwell. He should be sure to check
stair treads for loose dust that could become airborne when he passes over
A piece of facial tissue rubbed on the walls will come up brownish colored
if there is tarry smoke residue. Kurt, with your experience, I am sure you
have seen negative "shadows" created when things on shelf have prevented
smoke deposits. I saved a shelving board from a fire I survived that had
clean circles wherever cans and bottles had been sitting on the formerly
white (now smoky brown) colored shelf. That was from intense smoke so thick
you could not see more than a few inches. Just as a reminder of how lucky I
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