Fire Vocabulary: Balloon Frame Constrution

Answer the following questions.

1. What is Balloon Frame Construction

2. What are the Hazards associated with Balloon Frame construction

3. What Classification does Balloon Frame construction fall under meaning Type


  • abigail says:

    ‎1. it is a long continuous wall studs that could span from the foundation of a structure to the roof,a new era of building construction began.2 open stud channels interconnected to open floor-joist channels.3 type v

  • abigail says:

    ‎1. it is a long continuous wall studs that could span from the foundation of a structure to the roof,a new era of building construction began.2 open stud channels interconnected to open floor-joist channels.3 type v.

  • pfd24 says:

    Balloon frame construction is a type of construction where a continous stud is used for framing from the ground level, to the roof. There is no “firewall/fireblock” between floors, thus promoting rapid fire extension through the open void spaces in the walls. A senior man on my department told me something regarding balloon framing: “if there’s fire in the basement, there’s fire in the attic.” Im not sure what type of classification that it runs under, but it would be interesting to find out.

  • Damn Yankee says:

    Though this has been studied in my department. It is something we don’t come across. I would be confident in saying once every 10 years, sadly, the construction type is often noted late in the game with this.
    I am interested in seeing the responses on here as I have been told Low-Country firefighters know how to handle balloon-frame fires.
    One thing that has admittedly always thrown me… a key indicator is the “channel style alignment of windows and doors”. I beg to differ because my eyes see that in construction that may not be balloon frame. Any help?

  • In my experience, ballon frame construction provides significant problems for a many fire officers and firefighters. I don’t believe the construction type was popular in many areas of SC and, if used, wasn’t a method used for very long here. All the residences of this type I’ve contended with were at least two stories; a majority of these structures had a basement.

    The continuous stud framing allows for rapid, upward fire travel, even for fires originating in the basement or first floor. PFD24 has listened to his elders very well, as fire in the attic of this construction type should send you looking for fire elsewhere in the structure. A quick way to check for fire in the walls is to place your ungloved hand on wall surfaces as you move through the structure. A hot interior wall is a good indicator fire is traveling upward in the wall space.

    The company officer should resist the urge to focus all his/her resources on an attic fire in a structure of this construction type. Some personnel should be used to locate the initial fire area, focusing on a quick search of the lower floors. Once the fire on the lower floor is found and extinguished, pulling the walls will allow you to extinguish fires burning in the walls. You’ll probably have to pull the wall on each floor directly above the original fire area. Most likely, you’ll have two lines operating at this scene; one for the fire on the lower floor and one for fire showing from the attic.

    Damn Yankee, I’ve heard the window/door alignment suggestion; like you, I’ve found this to not be 100% true 100% of the time. Remember, these homes are well over a century old; many of them have been remodeled (sometimes numerous times) and great structural changes may have been made or windows/doors relocated.

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    Great comments. I have a few pictures of fires in Balloon frame buildings. There is a history behind Balloon frames. Back in the turn of the century (and before) there were ample tall trees around to cut 35′ 2×4’s out of. When lumber became scarce they had to start using the shorter wood. Many of these houses also had taller ceilings. Eventually fire codes picked up on fire stops and etc…but the long lumber ran out before then. Window alignment is a great point, and the smaller window that’s out of place is for the stairway. But like Freddie said, don’t trust a homeowner. A thermal imager will identify these easily, a quick sweep and you will see one or two stud bays bright as hell.
    So, avoid moth to the flame, always check for extension from the floor above and up, and don’t trust a homeowner.
    Oh yeah, type V construction, wood frame inside and out. Mill (Type IV) cannot have a dimension less than 6″, Ordinary, well there’s no masonry involved.
    Be safe, continue the good comments.

  • Damn Yankee says:

    I know this may sound totally rediculous. I’m even hesistant to type it. A few administrations back in my department, We actually had an Engine Officer assigned as a spotter, who would stand back away from the fire and determine if the fire was progressing upward as is typical in balloon frame fires. We just never had enough fires in the few balloon frame constructed homes for it to matter anyways.
    A close friend who works in the suburbs of Pittsburgh (majority balloon frame construction) Tells me; you have to basically take the skin off (exterior) to expose the channel/voids. And it’s not uncommon for the interior truckwork to be doing the same, aggressively!

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