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engineering fantasies
steel-melting fires
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9/11 Commission

Steel-Melting Fires

In the wake of the attack, numerous experts asserted that fires in the Twin Towers melted their structural steel.

e x c e r p t
title: Intense heat melted steel supports in Trade Center
authors: Daniel Scarpinato
Although the impact of the jetliners was strong, it was the heat from the explosion that most likely caused the buildings to collapse, experts say.

Richard Ebeltoft, a structural engineer and University of Arizona architecture lecturer, speculated that flames fueled by thousands of gallons of aviation fuel melted the building's steel supports.
e x c e r p t
title: Kamikaze Attackers May Have Known Twin Sisters' Weak Spot
Hyman Brown, a University of Colorado civil engineering professor and the Trade Center's construction manager [sic], speculated that flames fuelled by thousands of litres of aviation fuel melted steel supports.

"This building would have stood had a plane or a force caused by a plane smashed into it," he said. "But steel melts, and 90,850 litres of aviation fluid melted the steel. Nothing is designed or will be designed to withstand that fire."
e x c e r p t
title: Design Choice for Towers Saved Lives
authors: Eugenie Samuel and Damian Carrington
Each tower was struck by a passenger aeroplane, hijacked by suicidal terrorists, but remained upright for nearly an hour. Eventually raging fires melted the supporting steel struts, but the time delay allowed hundreds of people to escape.
e x c e r p t
title: How the World Trade Center fell
authors: Sheila Barter
"It was the fire that killed the buildings. There's nothing on earth that could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning." aid structural engineer Chris Wise.

"The columns would have melted, the floors would have melted and eventually they would have collapsed one on top of each other."
e x c e r p t
title: Twin Towers' Steel Under Scrutiny
[Professor of Structural Engineering at the University of Newcastle, John Knapton] told BBC News Online: "The world trade centre was designed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707, but that was unusual... we are trying to discover why they [ the towers ] collapsed and what needs doing to rebuild them."

"The buildings survived the impact and the explosion but not the fire, and that is the problem."

"The 35 tonnes of aviation fuel will have melted the steel... all that can be done is to place fire resistant material around the steel and delay the collapse by keeping the steel cool for longer."

In his presentation A New Standard For Deception Kevin Ryan ennumerates several more "experts" who endorsed the steel-melting fires idea:

  • Scientific American (Eduardo Kausel)
  • NOVA video (Matthys Levy)
  • Henry Koffman from USC
  • Tom Mackin from Univ. of Illinois

A Ludicrous Claim

Skeptics of the official collapse theory were quick to point out that the claim that fires melted the steel is nonsensical. On October 21, 2001 J. McMichael wrote a now-classic article exposing many ludicrous claims by proponents of the gravity collapse theory, including the fire-melts-steel claim.

e x c e r p t
title: Muslims Suspend Laws of Physics!
authors: J. McMichael
I try not to think about that. I try not to think about a petroleum fire burning for 104 minutes, just getting hotter and hotter until it reached 1538 degrees Celsius (2800 Fahrenheit) and melted the steel
Whether the fuel burned gradually at a temperature below the boiling point of jet fuel (360 C), or burned rapidly above the boiling point of jet fuel, in neither case would an office building full of spilled jet fuel sustain a fire at 815 degrees C.

Later, Eric Hufschmid appealed to people's experience with hydrocarbon-fueled fires, such as wood stoves and gas burners, to highlight the absurdity of the fire-melts-steel claim in the video Painful Deceptions.

In a slide show first presented on September 11, 2003, Jim Hoffman noted the vast difference between the temperatures achievable by open flames and those required to melt steel.

e x c e r p t
title: The Twin Towers' Demolition
authors: Jim Hoffman

The Killer Fires Theory is Pure Fantasy

The simple facts of temperatures:

  • 1535C (2795F) - melting point of iron
  • ~1510C (2750F) - melting point of typical structural steel
  • ~825C (1517F) - maximum temperature of hydrocarbon fires burning in the atmosphere without pressurization or pre-heating (premixed fuel and air - blue flame)

Diffuse flames burn far cooler.
Oxygen-starved diffuse flames are cooler yet.

The fires in the towers were diffuse -- well below 800C.
Their dark smoke showed they were oxygen-starved -- particularly in the South Tower.

Disingenuous Atttacks by Popular Mechanics and Scientific American

Despite the fact that the fire-melts-steel claim was made by numerous 'experts' defending the official line that the collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7 were caused, directly or indirectly, by the jetliner crashes, mainstream publications have portrayed the debunking of the claim as a straw man argument.

e x c e r p t
title: 9/11: Debunking The Myths
authors: Benjamin Chertoff
"Melted" Steel

CLAIM: "We have been lied to," announces the Web site AttackOnAmerica.net. "The first lie was that the load of fuel from the aircraft was the cause of structural failure. No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel." The posting is entitled "Proof Of Controlled Demolition At The WTC."

FACT: Jet fuel burns at 800 to 1500F, not hot enough to melt steel (2750F). However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength--and that required exposure to much less heat. "I have never seen melted steel in a building fire," says retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety. "But I've seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks."
e x c e r p t
title: Fahrenheit 2777: 9/11 has generated the mother of all conspiracy theories
authors: Michael Shermer
Such notions are easily refuted by noting that scientific theories are not built on single facts alone but on a convergence of evidence assembled from multiple lines of inquiry.
No melted steel, no collapsed towers.
For example, according to www.911research.wtc7.net, steel melts at a temperature of 2,777 degrees Fahrenheit, but jet fuel burns at only 1,517 degrees F. No melted steel, no collapsed towers.

This was apparently the first mainstream publication to mention 9-11 Research. The website subsequently published a critique of Shermer's attack piece:

e x c e r p t
title: Scientific American's Dishonest Attack On 911Research
authors: Jim Hoffman

Shermer's Melted Steel Straw Man

In the above excerpt, Shermer implies that our argument for demolition is that the fires could not have melted the steel. In fact, 911Research nowhere embraces the claim that the melting of the structural steel was a prerequisite for a gravity collapses of the towers. What we do is debunk the claim made by apologists of the official story that the fires melted the steel. This claim appeared in several places, including an article in Scientific American itself, in which M.I.T. professor of civil and environmental engineering Eduardo Kausel states:

I believe that the intense heat softened or melted the structural elements--floor trusses and columns--so that they became like chewing gum, and that was enough to trigger the collapse.

page last modified: 2010-10-22
Copyright 2004 - 2011,911Review.com / revision 1.08 site last modified: 12/21/2012
Professor of Structural Engineering at the University of Newcastle, John Knapton, proponent of the fire-melts-steel theory
Science fiction writer Michael Shermer misportrayed 911Research's debunking of the fire-melts-steel claim as a straw man argument, and falsely implied that the website embraces ideas such as creationism and Holocaust denial.