Fire wall, fire barrier, fire shield; call it what you want – it’ll save lives
Firewalls are essentially fire resistant barriers designed to prevent the spread of a fire from one area to another for a particular amount of time. Such fire resistant walls are constructed between, through and around buildings, structures and facilities requiring certain levels of passive fire protection.
There are considered three forms of fire rated resistance walls: fire walls, fire barriers and fire partitions. All of which pertain to different levels of fire protection and are rated by fire performance functions such as duration and life safety.
A fire rated wall is a formation of products and materials designed to separate and compartment certain areas of a building, structure (such as transformers) or large facility, to prevent the spread of fire. Such walls are generally constructed from the foundation through the roof and with a prescribed fire resistance time rating along with a designated integral structural stability. Firewalls are generally constructed of concrete, masonry blocks and brick materials, and represent a stronghold within a building, allowing occupants to escape safely, firefighters to perform their duties, and if required break away to protect certain sections of a facility.
Concrete masonry is, for the most part, considered to be one of passive fire protection’s biggest ally. As it is a non-combustible system and doesn’t burn, it has sound fire resistance qualities allowing itself to slowly absorb heat and refrain from emitting toxic fumes or smoke. Due to such qualities, and high heat capacity, concrete can be used to shield other construction systems such as steel and wood members from the effects of fire.
Furthermore, concrete masonry’s slow heat absorption facilitates the fire wall to perform in high heat temperatures, not only shielding certain areas and spaces from fire, but also protecting its internal structure. Ultimately, these
In addition, it is this slow heat absorption which enables concrete to act as an effective fire shield to protect adjacent spaces and contents, as well as itself from internal fire damage. These fundamental properties, along with sound structural performance and installation, safeguard concrete’s ability to perform in fire situations.
Fire barriers and fire partitions represent a ‘shield of life’ in the battle against the flames of a fire. Fire barrier walls and fire partitions are generally constructed with plaster/gypsum board with timber or steel framing. Such fire protection systems are generally comprised and assembled with lesser levels of fire safe protection products than a fire wall’s integrity. However, the main element that distinguishes a fire barrier and fire partition from a firewall, is its inability to be structurally self-sufficient.
Furthermore, fire barrier resistance walls are constructed continuously from an exterior wall to an exterior wall, or from fire barrier to fire barrier and even from foundation to a floor above, to provide a prescribed fire resistance rating and duration during a fire. Fire barriers provide sufficient Integrity ratings to limit smoke and fire penetrations, allowing for occupants of your building to egress safely.
Fire partitions, are typically non-load bearing, and are generally designed as internal walls that provide vertical fire separation in buildings, structures and facilities such as dividing walls, to provide fire compartmentation protection.