Fire Threat to Stones of Historic and Cultural Heritage Buildings

Many historic buildings are made with stone structures. In addition to the various benefits that this type of material, which is diversified by composition, aggregation and geometry according to historical periods and geographical areas, it must be remembered that exposure to fire constitutes in most cases an important vulnerability. Even recently, several cases of fire have highlighted the importance of designing from fire, in buildings belonging to the cultural heritage, building elements to which adequate attention is not always paid.

Plan and section of the Guarini Chapel in Turin, where the Holy Shroud is kept. The Chapel has been severely damaged by the fire on April 11, 1997.
Plan and section of the Guarini Chapel in Turin, where the Holy Shroud is kept. The Chapel has been severely damaged by the fire on April 11, 1997. Two thirds of its marble structural stones were damaged by the heat. he complex structure of the dome of the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, severely damaged by the fire of 1997, that was rebuilt using stones taken from a quarry opened for the occasion. The opening of the new quarry was due to the need to replace the numerous stone elements destroyed by the effects of the fire or no longer able to perform their load-bearing function. (image from Wikipedia

The case of the fire that seriously damaged the chapel that housed the Holy Shroud in Turin, on April 11, 1997, can be considered iconic in this regard. For its restoration it was necessary to open the quarry near the place from which at the time the stone material with which the supporting structures had been made had been extracted (see reference, page 25) . Among other things, the individual blocks had been designed and installed with techniques of which the memory had been lost and which forced the restorers to a specific study.

Continue reading “Fire Threat to Stones of Historic and Cultural Heritage Buildings”

Results of H2020 STORM Project in the Assessment of Damage to Cultural Heritage Buildings Following Seismic Events

The training of the Italian National Fire Brigade (CNVVF) staff has accompanied the evolution of operational needs also in the specific sector of courses aimed at personnel involved in building safety scenarios. In the courses of the CNVVF there is a one-week module which provides the necessary skills to build the temporary works foreseen by the STOP manual. Image: CNVVF.

It is worldwide known that the restoration of Notre Dame, severely damaged by a massive fire on 15 April 2019 will be supported by the wealth of data acquired few years before, in order to release the Ubisoft’s ‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity. This fortuitous case highlights an aspect that could become critical in the conservation of works of art, starting with buildings and monuments. The meticulous scanning, with a precision of not less than 5 mm, has made evident to the public an aspect already known to the experts: the reconstruction or restoration of assets damaged by time, war events and malicious or negligent actions they can be potentially helped if the goods themselves have been documented with laser scanning or photogrammetry techniques. The same consideration can be applied to the emergency assessments on the damage and on the level of risk of collapse that, for example after an earthquake, the first responders must perform to allow the rescue of people, the recovery of assets and the safety of non-collapsed structures.

Continue reading “Results of H2020 STORM Project in the Assessment of Damage to Cultural Heritage Buildings Following Seismic Events”

Monitoring and Maintenance of Archaeological Sites: the Conference Proceedings

Historic buildings are by their nature subject to the degradation that time and atmospheric agents entail. To limit the damage that degradation causes to heritage artefacts, the first requirement is the periodic or, better, continuous control of their state of conservation. The technologies available for this purpose are constantly evolving.

Cover of the proceedings of the conference “Manutenzione e monitoraggio delle aree archeologiche”(Monitoring and Maintenance of Archaeological Sites) held in Rome on 20th and 21st March, 2019
Continue reading “Monitoring and Maintenance of Archaeological Sites: the Conference Proceedings”

How Climate Change will affect Museums: a book about Indoor Risks

Managing Indoor Climate Risks in Museums – Bart Ankersmit • Marc H.L. Stappers – Springer

Climate change, presumably, will affect the way buildings will be designed and managed. Also museums are challenged by such risk and a new kind of approach needs to be studied.

Among the wealth of websites and papers that the internet web allows to read about the climate change issue, Managing Indoor Climate Risks in Museums has the gift of explaining the big picture and, at the same time, giving practical tips to the many professionals that need to be supported in studying and applying real-world solution to a new problem.

Continue reading “How Climate Change will affect Museums: a book about Indoor Risks”

CURE: an UNESCO – World Bank Group Position Paper on Cultural Heritage and Reconstruction

CURE (Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery) is a position paper published in 2018 by UNESCO and the  World Bank Group that offers, according the foreword (Mr Enrico Ottone and Mr Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez), “a framework on Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery and operational guidance for policymakers and practitioners for the planning, financing, and implementation phases of post-crisis interventions for city reconstruction and recovery“. Continue reading “CURE: an UNESCO – World Bank Group Position Paper on Cultural Heritage and Reconstruction”

First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis – a double ICCROM publication

Cover of the ICCROM Toolkit “FIRST AID TO CULTURAL HERITAGE IN TIMES OF CRISIS”

On October 2018 ICCROM (the intergovernamental organization on International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) has published a couple of documents about “First Aid to Cultural Heritage in times of crisis”:  a 176 pages pdf handbook and a 104 pages pdf toolkit. Continue reading “First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis – a double ICCROM publication”

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections: an ICCROM-UNESCO handbook

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Handbook cover.

Protecting Cultural Heritage is  mainly aimed at avoiding that any kind of  hazard could pose an excessive  risk to the objects that must be preserved. There are conditions, nonetheless, that oblige to evacuate the artefacts, since the preventive measures cannot be anymore effective.  So, in specific situations, museums and their staff may  go through challenging times due both to natural disasters and climate change.

In the case of museums, when they  are threatened for their role in protecting and valorizing precious witnesses of the past and human creativity, their intrinsic value for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding  must be protected and supported.

Continue reading “Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections: an ICCROM-UNESCO handbook”

Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archaeology: an USDA publication

USDA – Forest Service – Wildland Fire in Ecosystems Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archaeology.

A problem neglected by the most of the studies concerning the protection of Cultural Resources against natural hazards deals with the exposition of archaelogical artefacts to vegetation fire risks. All tangible and intangible cultural assets can be damaged by fires. Thus, archaeological remains are exposed to the risk caused by forest fires.

Continue reading “Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archaeology: an USDA publication”

The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage

Cover of the ABC Method document. (Credits: ICCROM website)

Risks to cultural heritage vary from catastrophic events (such as earthquakes,  floods,  etc) to gradual processes (such as chemical, physical, or biological degradation). The result is loss of value to the heritage. Sometimes, the risk does not involve any type of material damage to the heritage asset, but rather the loss of information about it, or the inability to access heritage items. So, heritage managers need to understand these risks well so as to make good decisions about protection of the heritage (for future generations) while also providing access for the current generation. ICCROM (Intergovernamental Organisation devoted to protect Cultural Heritage)  and the Canadian Conservation Institute have published the “The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural  heritage”.

The handbookl is based on the five steps pf the management cycle (Establish the context,  identify risks, analyze risks, evaluate risks, treat risks)  and, for each step, three or more tasks are identified, whose complete list

1. Establish the context

  • Task 1: Consult with decision makers. Define the scope, goals and criteria.
  • Task 2: Collect and understand the relevant information.
  • Task 3: Build the value pie.

2. Identify risks

  • Task 1: Assemble the appropriate tools and strategies.
  • Task 2: Survey the heritage asset and make a photographic record.
  • Task 3: Identify specific risks, name them, and write their summary sentences.

3. Analyze risks

  • Task 1: Quantify each specific risk.
  • Task 2: Split or combine specific risks, as needed.
  • Task 3: Review and refine the analyses.

4. Evaluate risks

  • Task 1: Compare risks to each other, to criteria, to expectations.
  • Task 2: Evaluate the sensitivity of prioritization to changes in the value pie.
  • Task 3: Evaluate uncertainty, constraints, opportunities.

5. Treat risks

  • Task 1: Identify risk treatment options.
  • Task 2: Quantify risk reduction options.
  • Task 3: Evaluate risk reduction options.
  • Task 4: Plan and implement selected options.

The document is an important study aimed at helping cultural heritage managers and risk assessment professionals in starting the process that limits damages to buildings and artefacts. The document is freely downloadable from the ICCROM website or from the Canadian Conservation Institute website.

The NFPA 909 – 2017 Edition on “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties: Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” has been published

The 909 Standard “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties — Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” – 2017 Edition has been published by National Fire Protection Association.

The standard describes principles and practices of protection for cultural resource properties (museums, libraries, and places of worship etc.), their contents, and collections, against conditions or physical situations with the potential to cause damage or loss. The updates for the 2017 edition include:

  • expanded provisions for outdoor collections and archaeological sites and their protection against wildfire;
  • further clarification of sprinkler system corrosion protection criteria;
  • mandated integrated system testing per NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing;
  •  the addition of numerous events to Annex B, Fire Experience in Cultural Properties.

According to the 909 code, libraries, museums, and places of worship housed in historic structures have also to comply with the requirements of NFPA 914 (Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures).

The standard includes provisions for fire prevention, emergency operations, fire safety management, security, emergency preparedness and inspection, testing, and maintenance of protection systems.

As in the previous editions, criteria are provided for new construction, addition, alteration, renovation, and modification projects, along with specific rules addressing places of worship and museums, libraries, and their collections.

Historic District Protection Planning. The Lexington Presbyterian Church Fire Case Study

1Danny Mac Daniels (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) has presented the following theme during the september 20th , 2012, Venice meeting on emergencies in historical centers.

Historic District Protection Planning A Case Study – Lexington, Virginia

The City of Lexington, located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, was established as the town of Lexington in 1778. Today, Lexington has a permanent population of about 7500 with another 4000-5000 students attending Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute from September through May. Lexington is well known for its architecture and historic preservation. Tourism and higher education are its major industries and its downtown is a thriving collection shops and restaurants, many housed in restored buildings dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Lexington is a typical small city in southern America: many buildings in the downtown area have party walls, construction tends to be brick exteriors over wood framing with combustible roofs, and some older buildings are completely wood frame construction. The streets in Lexington, while not as narrow as many streets in Europe, are narrow when compared to the size of most modern fire apparatus.

The Lexington Presbyterian Church Fire

Lexington Presbyterian, a Greek revival style church, was completed in 1845 and it is one of the centerpieces of Lexington’s history and its visual appeal. Lexington was home to Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and he worshipped at the church in the years leading up to the American Civil War. The sanctuary underwent some renovation between 1845 and 2000, but overall the building changed very little and there was no fire detection or fire suppression system installed when in the summer of 2000 the governing board hired a contractor to repaint the exterior of the building. The board, aware that the dry, 155 year old long-leaf yellow pine wood in the building posed a greater fire hazard than newer material, had the contractor chosen for the work demonstrate the hot-iron technique he proposed to use to soften the paint before scrapping it off. The board approved the process and the contractor began work. On Tuesday, July 18, as workmen were using a hot iron to strip paint off of a cornice around the base of the church’s clock tower, the hot iron apparently ignited a fire in the roof area of the wood frame structure that destroyed one sanctuary and caused the clock tower to collapse.

According to fire investigators from the Virginia State Fire Marshall’s Office, workmen removing paint from a cornice at the base of the clock tower noticed smoke at about 9:30 a.m. The workmen searched for the source of the smoke and found a fire inside the clock tower behind the cornice they had been working on. The workmen attempted to extinguish the fire, and when they could not, they notified the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department. Some volunteer firefighters responded quickly, but since it was a normal workday and most of the members were at work, many were delayed getting to the church and calls for mutual aid went out to other nearby jurisdictions. By 10:00 a.m., heavy smoke was pouring out around the base of the clock tower.

Fire fighters began to battle the blaze with ladder pipes shortly after 10:00 a.m., but by that time the fire in the clock tower was fully developed. Firefighters worked to save the clock tower through the morning; however, the combination of the highly combustible wood frame construction of the church and the amount of water needed to fight the blaze put a strain on the city’s aging water system.

At about noon the clock tower finally collapsed. Fire investigators pointed out that the firefighters did an excellent job keeping the fire from spreading to other structures and because of their efforts no one was injured when the clock tower collapsed into the street.

Damage to the building was estimate at $2.5 million, and shortly after the fire the church board announced the church would be restored to its original condition and restoration work began soon afterward. The restoration was substantially completed when a new clock tower was installed on March 5, 2002.

A senior architectural historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources pointed out after the fire that using heat to strip paint on old wood fixtures that are hollow or that cannot be seen from behind, like the cornices that were being stripped at Lexington Presbyterian where rats or birds sometimes build nests, can cause combustible materials to catch fire without workers knowing it.

The Aftermath

In August 2000 the president of the Rockbridge County Historic Society called and asked me to come to Lexington to share information about how Colonial Williamsburg protects its historic buildings and to see if some of those things might be adapted to help Lexington improve protection in its historic district. She also wanted to know how the concepts in the 1997 edition of NFPA 909, Standard for Protection of Cultural Resources might be applied to historic districts. As a first step she arranged a one-day workshop for members of Lexington’s city government, merchants, and other interested parties. The workshop was surprisingly well attended and during the discussions it became evident to the political leaders that much of what made Lexington an attraction for tourism could be lost in a single fire. After the workshop I met with the mayor, the chief of the volunteer fire department, and the president of the Rockbridge County Historic Society to brainstorm ideas to improve fire safety in Lexington’s historic district. In the discussion we identified four major challenges:

  • Many of the buildings in the historic district have party walls, and some interconnect at the attic level. The fire department was aware of some of the interconnections; however, the fire chief suspected many more existed that were not on any drawings or building plans.
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia has a statewide fire prevention code, but in a city as small as Lexington that has a volunteer fire department no one locally enforces the code and any inspections have to be done by the State Fire Marshall’s office. As with most state agencies, the Virginia State Fire Marshall’s office has a small staff to cover a very large area. In practice, the only inspections the State Fire Marshall’s office can do are in the largest state-owned facilities; so, there is very little, if any, enforcement of fire prevention regulations in privately owned buildings in cities like Lexington.
  • Lexington’s aging water supply system was challenged to provide enough water to fight the fire in the church and the fire chief expressed concern about its ability to handle a fire spreading from building to building in the downtown area through interconnecting attics.
  • Access is difficult for fire apparatus in many parts of the downtown area because of traffic congestion and narrow streets, particularly during the summer when tourism is at its height.

Two initiatives were undertaken as a result of the discussion:

  • The Rockbridge County Historic Society and the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department agreed to focus efforts on a public education program in fire safety management. To help with the project, local residents with backgrounds in fire protection and fire suppression were recruited to conduct public awareness campaigns, fire safety educational programs, and voluntary fire safety inspections for merchants and home owners. Lexington is a popular retirement area for professionals from urban areas in the northeast United States, and several highly qualified individuals volunteered to assist with the project.
  • The Lexington City Council agreed to create a position in the Building Department for an inspector who would devote 50% of his time to building code issues and the other 50% to conducting inspections to enforce the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code

Lessons Learned

More than a decade has passed and over those years I’ve drawn the following lessons from my experience in Lexington.

1. The fire codes and standards in place at the time, and since, including the most recent editions of NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries and Places of Worship and NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures provide no guidance on planning and implementing fire protection programs for historic districts. The NFPA Cultural Resources Committee has been discussing the issues for several years, and it hopes to provide some guidance on the subject in the 2015 edition of NFPA 914. In 2000, the NFPA Cultural Resources Committee was several years away from the paradigm shift it made in the 2010 and 2013 editions of NFPA 909 and the upcoming 2015 edition of NFPA 914 that take an all-hazards approach to protection planning. The shift was crucial because it focused protection planning efforts on the outcome of a comprehensive vulnerability analysis. Such an approach is especially important when thinking of protection in historic districts where one way to approach the issue is to think of the historic district as a very large multiple use occupancy building with multiple owners /tenants (like an apartment building or condominium). From that perspective the district is analogous to a museum building that contains a collection – that is the individual buildings inside the district – and provides the support infrastructure, utilities, and services to maintain them. The planning issues are similar, as well. For example, egress is a primary concern in both, particularly during an earthquake, flood, or conflagration; however, ingress is also a significant issue for both because the collection (buildings, artifacts, or works of art) must be protected in place and to do that, emergency responders must have ready access. Other common issues include water supply (or lack thereof), occupant notification, fire department response time, fire prevention, security and planning for emergency operations and damage limitation.

2. The assessment we did in Lexington was flawed because it addressed only a few of the vulnerabilities, so the resulting action plans only scratched the surface of the problem. The steps taken in Lexington after the fire in 2000 only addressed two limited aspects of the problem (education and enforcement) but failed to address the significant infrastructure issues (water supply, limited availability of volunteer firefighters during the normal work day, fire department access during the busy summer months in the downtown area, installation of automatic sprinklers, etc.). A comprehensive vulnerability assessment of all the hazards is the key to a successful protection plan in a building or in an historic district.

3. Dividing an inspector between building department duties and fire prevention code enforcement probably is not a sustainable model. Building departments are partially self-sustaining because they generate revenues from building permits and plan reviews while fire prevention activities generate no direct revenue. As a result, when municipalities face budget shortfalls, as they have since 2008, they tend to focus on activities that generate income and that moves fire prevention code enforcement to the back burner. After all, governmental memories are short and fires are low probability events even if the consequences can be devastating.

ICT and Massive Rescue Operations in Historic Districts

1Stefano Marsella (Italian Fire Corps) has shown, during the Venice meeting of 20 september 2012 on emergencies in historical centers, how Italian Firefighters Corps have coordinated hundreds of operations in l’Aquila earthquake using a communications protocol (CAP – common alerting protocol) which have enabled operators on the field to exchange data and receive priorities from the Heritage authority.

The same system made it possible to publish information on the official National Fire Corps website, in order to give the most updated information.

Download the presentation: Marsella

NFPA Committees and Historical Building Safety

1Deborah Freeland (Area Senior Vice President Property Loss Control Arthur J Gallagher & Co.)and Donald Moeller (Principal The Fire Consultants, Inc.) explain the activity of the NFPA Committees 909 e 914 to improve fire protection of cultural and historical heritage.

Download the pdf (without slides with pictures) presented during the september 20, 2012, Venice meeting about emergencies in historical centers: 1

Training staff to emergencies in historical buildings

1

Steve Emery, Fire Safety Adviser for English Heritage, has presented in Venice, during the  September 20th international meeting, how English Heritage is training firefighters to rescue operations when historical buildings are interested.

The key points of the presentation are:

1. Standardise Emergency Plans

2. Standardise Training

3. Trainwith Fire Services

4. Maintain the Plans

5. Desktop Exercises

6. Cross Organisation Help and Liaison

7. SalvageEquipment

The presentation: Emery

Venice meeting on emergency in Historical Centers

a

VENICE – SCUOLA GRANDE DI SAN GIOVANNI EVANGELISTA

20 September 2012: International Workshop  – Protecting historic centres during emergencies

The Italian National Fire Corps (CNVVF) has organized the meeting, which will address to historical centers emergency. The use of IT technologies in this field and the techniques used to put in place provisional works to save historical buildings after an earthquake will be shown, with reference to the l’Aquila earthquake experience.

Some presentation will show problems of fire protection in historical buildings.

Session 1 – Technical codes and case studies
Chairman
Maurizio Crovato (Chief editor of RAI International)

  • 10.00 Nfpa 909 and 914 and statistics Donald Moeller – Deborah Freeland (NFPA)
  • 10.20 Fire standards in Italy: problems and solutions Luca Nassi (CNVVF)
  • 10.40 Toronto Distillery district Fred Leber (Leber/Rubes Inc.)
  • 11.00 Protection of the Historical Architecture and criteria of Equivalent Safety Renata Codello (Soprintendency of Venice)

Break

13.10 Questions and discussion

Break
Session 2 – Emergency management – Chairman Loris Munaro (CNVVF)

DOWNLOAD THE LEAFLET:  Venice Provisional Program – vers. 29.8.2012

Cultural Heritage and Forest Fires

picture taken from Kosmas Dimitropoulos , Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin paper
picture taken from Kosmas Dimitropoulos , Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin paper

Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing is the art, science, and technology of obtaining reliable information from noncontact imaging and other sensor systems about the Earth and its environment, and other physical objects and processes through recording, measuring, analyzing and representation. The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, devoted to the development of international cooperation for the advancement of photogrammetry and remote sensing and their applications. The society has published on its website among other conference proceedings the paper concerning “fire detection, and 3D fire propagation estimation for the protection of cultural heritage areas”.

The abstract of the paper states that  beyond taking precautionary measures to avoid a forest fire, early warning and immediate response to a fire breakout are the only ways to avoid great losses and environmental and cultural heritage damages. To this end, this paper aims to present a computer vision based algorithm for wildfire detection and a 3D fire propagation estimation system. The main detection algorithm is composed of four sub-algorithms detecting:

  • (i) slow moving objects,
  • (ii) smoke-coloured regions,
  • (iii) rising regions,
  • (iv) shadow regions.

After detecting a wildfire, the main focus should be the estimation of its propagation direction and speed. If the model of the vegetation and other important parameters like wind speed, slope, aspect of the ground surface, etc. are known; the propagation of fire can be estimated. This propagation can then be visualized in any 3D-GIS environment that supports KML files.

Fire Research Database – FReD – English Heritage

EnglishHeritage This database was set up by the public body English Heritage to enable all those responsible in any capacity for historic buildings to share information on related fire safety matters.

The database has now been expanded to allow PDFs of research reports to be attached, as well as giving contact points for current or planned projects and details of published reports.

this is the link to FReD Web page:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/research/buildings/fire-research-database

Fire Safety Retrofitting in Historical Buildings

1aImproving fire safety level of historical buildings is one of the most common problems to deal with after a fire risk assessment. The theme is not easy, since fire safety technical issues are relevant as conservation ones.  In August 1989, the US Government Agency General Service Administration published the paper “Fire Safety Retrofitting in Historical Buildings” in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The document provides guidance to ensure that fire safety retrofitting has minimal impact on the historic features of the property.

Fire_Safety_Retrofitting_in_Historic_Buildings

NSW Guidelines on Fire Safety in Heritage Buildings

aState of New South Wales (Australia) has published the Guidelines on fire safety in heritage buildings. In the introduction to the guidelines it is stated that fires in buildings are life threatening and often occur without warning. This gives building occupants little time to react – to fight the fire or evacuate the building. Prevention of fires is the most effective method of dealing with this threat and is the responsibility of both building owners and statutory authorities.

Current building regulations are encompassed in the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Most of NSW heritage buildings were built prior to the adoption of these regulations. In fact some of our very old buildings predate the existence of any formal building regulations in Australia. Many heritage buildings do not meet the full requirements of current building regulations and may need upgrading for fire safety.

The Guidelines, published also in the official Cost C17 Action website, can be downloaded also from this post:

NSW_maintenance_8_1_fire_heritage

The Arson Threat to the Built Heritage and Historical Buildings

We publish the paper concerning the arson threat to the built heritage already published by the COST Action C17: Built Heritage: Fire Loss to Historic Buildings in its Final Report Part 1 (pages 90-92)

La Fenice Venice

On Friday 30 March 2001, a court in Venice found two electricians guilty of setting fire to La Fenice opera house in the city in 1996. Enrico Carella and his cousin, Massimiliano Marchetti, were found to have set the building ablaze because their company was facing heavy fines over delays in repair work. Mr Carella, the company’s owner, was sent to prison for seven years, while Mr Marchetti received a six-year sentence. The rebuilding of the famous theatre, for which Giuseppi Verdi composed several operas, was delayed and did not re-open until 2004. The fire on 29 January 1996 happened as the Teatro La Fenice was being renovated. The subsequent rebuilding did not go according to plan and the original German-Italian consortium of Holzmann-Romagnoli had asked for supplementary and fee waivers before the work was re-tendered by the City Mayor Paolo Costa.

Sinsheim Mosque, Germany

On the 18 November 2004 unknown individuals threw a Molotov cocktail at a mosque near Heidelberg in Germany. A glass bottle filled with flammable liquid was tossed against the entrance of the Sinsheim mosque. The fire was discovered and extinguished after it caused around €10,000 damage to the wooden door and the glass window.

Wooden Churches, Poland

In Poland, wooden church were found to be particularly at risk. Between 1999 and 2000, 50 churches burnt down. The most frequent cause of fire is not damage to electric installations, but a fire lit deliberately. Poland has a substantial amount of sacred wooden architecture, which make an important, often unique, contribution to European heritage. It consists in part of wooden churches, built between the C14 and C19, mainly Catholic, but there are also other churches, including Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic-orthodox, Dukhobor, Jewish and Mariavites churches. Wooden religious architecture also includes chapels, belfries and morgues. The scale of the task is significant, given that presently there are 2,785 items of religious wooden architecture in Poland and six of them (from the C15 and C16) are on the World Heritage List.

The Arson Threat

It is difficult to be precise about the growth in arson globally due to statistical variations, but there is good evidence that in many developed countries arson is a growing problem. The CTIF Centre of Fire Statistics demonstrated that, in 8 selected countries [Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, Japan, USA and UK] between 1993 and 1999, intentional fires accounted for 18 percent of all building and structure fires. This represents a huge level of unwanted and unwelcome activity, given the fact that a significant part of any country’s built environment contains numerous heritage sites (in some major cities like Edinburgh, Venice, and Rome the figure is very high) and that certain property classifications (like religious buildings) are subject to regular attacks of the sort identified earlier. To illustrate the growth trend in the UK, according to the UK Arson Prevention Bureau, the incidence of arson in occupied buildings has steadily increased over the past decade, as shown in the following Table.

1

Arson

Arson is now one of the most serious threats to heritage buildings throughout the world. The reasons for this form of attack vary enormously, from economic fraud to cultural disaffection. The nature of the attack can likewise arise from sophisticated fire raising by criminals using science and technology, to sudden unplanned attacks by vandals using any locally available materials. The impact however, regardless of the initiating event, may be the total loss of all the physical property both of contents and structure. The following real examples illustrate that the target can be a high-profile internationally-known building or a more generalised category of building-type. They serve to illustrate the task being confronted.

Whilst there are many documented causes and solutions to the arson threat, there are also particular circumstances related to heritage buildings that raise the risk presented from intentional attacks. For example, historic structures may

• Contain or be constructed in materials particularly vulnerable to fire, like wood

• Elements of structure will contain voids due to adaptations that spread fire and its products

• Modernisation may hide building services and associated features or structural elements that heighten the risk of undetected initiation or early structural failure

• Transfers and unclear ownership may lead to poor risk management

• Economic and funding priorities sometimes prevent investment in mitigating passive or active systems of fire defence

• Hazardous materials may be present on industrial or military heritage sites

• Criminal activity such as smuggling or theft may give rise to arson to cover the original crime

There are many documented responses to combating arson that suggest there is a strong onous on the heritage community to develop a sustainable and internationally-supported strategy to help preserve the national heritage of each country.

This is especially so when it is realised that within the European Union there are few special requirements placed in law on heritage buildings. A recent study supported by the European Union Community Action Programme in the Field of Civil Protection coordinated by Raddnings Verket, the Swedish Rescue Services Agency, found that no heritage-specific fire safety legislative requirements were in force in Austria, Belgium, Denmark (except a 5 yearly inspection), Finland, Germany (other than a building permit for certain uses), Greece, Sweden, The Netherlands (subject to some heritage and safety controls) and the UK. In Ireland, Italy and Norway, guidance or in Italy’s case technical controls, exist.

The proposal, therefore, is that the Cost Action C17 Working Group 3 should consider extending its investigations into the area of arson reduction and protection. This will require research into national statistics, identification of the national risk profile and subsequent identification of preventative action. Whilst there are cultural and national variations in the risk presented in any approach, there is high value in sharing best practice to help improve sustainability and add intelligence to create an effective response to what is an increasingly alarming threat.

Terrorism

In the earlier section, threats arising from vandals, criminals and activists have been described. Unfortunately, it is now necessary to add to that form of attack the increased threat of extremist action from disaffected groups in society. Prior to 11 September 2001, it was the case that the number of lethal terrorist incidents in Europe had declined, although the total number of incidents rose. The escalation of the terrorist incidents that had occurred in Europe and Eurasia were, in fact, often acts of arson or vandalism. However, terrorism has become an increasingly worrying threat to all those responsible for national icons or places of large public assembly. This, in part, reflects the paradigm shift that occurred in New York when vehicles like aircraft became weapons, instead of buildings being defended against weapons. Major sites that have crowds offer the terrorist anonymity and are internationally recognisable. Frequently, they offer hard construction materials that cause maximum personal damage and lead to economic losses, including tourism. They have become the new targets. Well-known and frequently visited heritage buildings and sites that fall into this category are therefore susceptible. In addition, security measures at higher-risk sites like government centres, can serve to move the terrorist further away from the obvious iconic or transport centres to softer geographically open locations. It is, of course, important to retain a sense of perspective. Lethal events are often infrequent, and in comparison to the routinely accepted loss of life in any country, are of a low order of magnitude. Usually, the risk is simply disruptive, as with left luggage (one example is 2.5 million emergency calls to unattended bags in a 10-year period in a transport environment, with no active explosive devices found). Society, however, demands active consideration of this threat and positive action to reduce both the possible occurrence and mitigate impact. This demands a sensible and systematic review of the likelihood and practical measures. In many areas action taken to reduce prevalent and active life-threatening events such as fire and security, will coincide with action designed to contain this extremist threat. There are many previous examples of this type of attack, especially where intolerance has existed, when individuals over generations have attempted and sometimes succeeded in destroying artefacts or symbols that they consider represent that intolerant burden.

Currently trans-national ideology based upon an Islamic fundamentalist cause that is globally, not geographically, regionalised, together with localised extremism, is seen as the new threat. This, some commentators suggest, is a misunderstanding of a threat that in reality comes from local groups that may share a common ideology, but act independently and in sympathy, without any central direction or control. Personal relationships and sympathetic supporters therefore form the basis of the unstructured network of loose alliances. This is considerably different to the earlier, and in some cases still current, more usual form of threat, in which the perpetrator belonged to an organisation that wanted to find a balance between mass innocent casualties and its political aim. That form of terrorist attack was often characterised by a warning and the terrorist seeking to escape and survive.

The economic cost of mounting a terror attack is low, yet the economic impact can be extremely high. Reducing the risk is also difficult from the perspective of vigilance, since the defender has to be systematically in advance of the terrorist, who needs only one success. This is a problem that some observers say will remain a real issue for some time, with terrorism of this kind expected to last the next 20-30 years.

Again, the practice of risk evaluation supported by sound policy and practice is the key. Co-ordination of best practice, education, investigation, advice, crisis management, business continuity planning, threat monitoring and risk assessment are all required. Technical issues that arise include the threat to people and contamination of the heritage site or workplace, physical violence, and detection of weapons and malicious actions. The identification of specific high-risk sites and event scenarios, like those affecting faith premises as already observed in acts against Muslim and Jewish places of worship, is priority action, since in this threatening environment, physically high levels of protection of all sites is impractical.

Intelligence, and the recognition of connections attributed between causes (as with the desire to see the USA leave Islamic countries or resolve the Palestine issue) are important features to research and understand. Whilst these are simplifications, they do serve to raise the matter as an important concern for those who have a responsibility to protect national heritage.

Conclusion

There is a real and urgent need to evaluate the risk presented at heritage sites from malicious acts of vandalism, criminal attack and local or international terrorism. Many of the issues have common features. There would be a benefit in gathering intelligence and knowledge collectively. That task could be an extension of the current role of the COST Action C17 activities. The proposal would require modest financial support, to initially scope the issue and to prepare a more definitive action programme bid, seeking financial support from the European Union.