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onesecondglance
07-23-2012, 01:22 PM
And we return now to our regular scheduled programme of "things that would get you locked up if you Googled them".

I have need to start a serious fire in a modern two-storey office building - steel frame, glass exterior. The firestarter must be able to escape the conflagration, so ideally this needs to be something that will build up rather than an catastrophic explosion or something. He can bring accelerant if essential, but would be better if he didn't have to.

I thought about driving a car from the adjacent car park in and then blowing the petrol tank, but I think that's too reminiscent of the police station scene in The Terminator :D.

Cheers!

Bufty
07-23-2012, 02:29 PM
Here's a link to a recent related thread in this same Forum.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=243420

Any help?

onesecondglance
07-23-2012, 03:50 PM
That is helpful, thank you. I'd seen it in the thread listing and saw the first few posts focused on it being an old building many storeys higher than the one in my WIP, but reading through it again now there is some good stuff further down.

onesecondglance
07-23-2012, 05:41 PM
I've done some more research, but I'm still looking for input. My main problem is finding a suitable ignition source.

I don't need the building to collapse - I just need the interior to be burnt enough to destroy the contents. The building would have its sprinkler system disabled by the firestarter.

I wondered about an electrical fire of some sort, since the office houses a lot of computer equipment?

PorterStarrByrd
07-23-2012, 05:48 PM
Every chemical product that is used in office or factory has a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that describes health and safety facts about it. That includes volatility.

In your scenario, or any that you might work with in the future, think about things (perhaps copier fluid, cleaning supplies, etc) that might be there. Check the MSDS on line to see if it might make a good excellerant or poison or whatever alternate use they might serve.

Snick
07-23-2012, 06:00 PM
You can use any ignition source that comes to mind. The car driving into the building would be fine. The fire could also start in a collection of papers. The break-room/ kitchen of an office might be a good place. I have wondered why there aren't more fires in the kitchens of office; those [places are often a mess with more appliances than they need.

thothguard51
07-23-2012, 06:02 PM
In modern office buildings, if the buildings fire suppression system is disabled, the system will automatically send out a signal to the company monitoring the site. They in turn will call the building management contact or the fire department.

Also, if the building has any kind of high tech center in it, many of these fire suppression systems for the computer labs, file server vaults, etc are separated from the general building. Many us a halon system which sucks all the oxygen out of the air so a fire dies. They don't want water all over their mega expensive equipment.

So it really depends on what you are going for, and how modern the building is and what the companies are in the building.

Bufty
07-23-2012, 06:05 PM
When you say 'contents', what exactly is it you wish destroyed in this fire and where in the building are these contents located?


I've done some more research, but I'm still looking for input. My main problem is finding a suitable ignition source.

I don't need the building to collapse - I just need the interior to be burnt enough to destroy the contents. The building would have its sprinkler system disabled by the firestarter.

I wondered about an electrical fire of some sort, since the office houses a lot of computer equipment?

onesecondglance
07-23-2012, 07:21 PM
Thanks for the responses so far, guys. thothguard - that is an excellent point regarding automated calls to the fire station, and one I will have to mull over.

The full scenario is this: the office is the base of a technology company that has developed a prototype of their product. The protagonist will go to any lengths to destroy all trace of the development and goes on, for want of a better term, a rampage. He enters the building, locks the security and fire escape doors, and kills everyone there. He then accesses and deletes the remote backups of research, corrupts the network to "kill" the workstations, and physically attacks and damages the local server drives.

That this is an extreme, over-the-top, far-from-watertight course of action is a plot point and reflective of the character. Whilst he is knowledgeable regarding IT systems, he doesn't take into account offline remote backups of research, and he is unaware of a second prototype currently offsite.

He is aware that data can be recovered from even severely damaged systems, but his main aim is to set things back far enough so that it is not commercially viable to pick the work up again. That the crimes can be traced back to him is not a concern. Being thorough, he starts a fire to further increase the difficulty of following the research by damaging the hard drives, prototype, and network equipment. He assumes it will also give him more time before he is identified as the culprit by destroying physical evidence such as hair and skin.

Again - these assumptions are full of holes, but that's how the character thinks. He operates in very simple, black and white terms. By the time this is all over, the police will have surrounded the building, so the fire serves to force him out and avoids a siege scenario.

Shakesbear
07-23-2012, 07:45 PM
I think that one problem is that the building is modern. In England there are all sorts of regulations concerning safety in the office. This should take you to a very useful leaflet. www.communities.gov.uk/documents/fire/pdf/144647.pdf

Scroll down to page 13 - layout of an office with a gas cooker and lots of cardboard boxes. Gas can cause wonderful explosions. If this will not work I can always ask my fire fighter bro-in-law.

Al Stevens
07-23-2012, 07:56 PM
Given that modern buildings have structural firebreaks that tend to isolate fires to their points of origin, and given that the Oklahoma City approach has already been used, the protagonist might take it this way:

Sytematically assassinate everyone who has working knowledge of the technical details of the project--maybe send them all greeting cards sprinkled with anthrax
Distribute something gaseous into the air conditioning
Use a cyberattack to destroy all computer records and backups
Set the fire/explosion/whatever to occur where the physical records--blueprints, corporate documents, etc.--are stored
Have fun...

jclarkdawe
07-23-2012, 09:20 PM
So you want some over-the-top type approach. I'd take a sludge hammer to each of the computers, working to crack the cases. Prior to arriving, take some flares and very carefully slice them open. Take the powder and place in a cotton bag. Carefully insert some of the powder into the cracks in the computer cases. Pile the computers into a pile.

Take some more flares, and place them through the pile. Now take some kerosene and pour it over the pile, and run a trail of fluid to a door or other exit. Drop match and run like hell.

The powder in flares consists of magnesium. Magnesium burns under water. Sprinkler goes off, notifying fire department. The initial fire will temporarily exceed the ability of the sprinkler to put it out, even without the magnesium, resulting in considerable burning. Fire department will see that water is not being successful and move onto something designed to smother the fire. First choice will be a dry extinguisher, which will result in a powder going over everything. It may or may not succeed in putting out the magnesium. The fire department is probably going to also use foam to cover the fire. A lot of this stuff is corrosive.

Between the fire, the water, the powder from the extinguisher, and the foam, I doubt you'd get anything useful from the pile. It avoids dealing with the alarm/sprinkler system. Slight getaway problem, but this would go in initially as a structure fire called from an alarm activation, and you've got ten minutes at least before the fire department advise police that criminal activity is involved.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironmikezero
07-23-2012, 10:40 PM
Jeez, Jim... It's a good thing you're one of the good guys...

I'd only modify the ignition plan.

Use a WP/thermite grenade, pin pulled and spoon snugged tight with a heavy duty rubber band. Drop the grenade into a closeable container of gas/petrol; cap it tight. The gasoline will eat through the rubber band in a matter of minutes (exit/escape strategy). When the grenade detonates within the accelerant (in an enclosed space/container to enhance blast force) the resulting fire will be damned hard to put out.

Snick
07-23-2012, 10:43 PM
I think that JCD is on the right track. Thermite will do nicely, and the Halon won't make any difference, because the oxygen comes for the iron-oxide. It just looks like dirt, so the character could leave a pile of it in a suitable place and light it when e was ready. He would need a magnesium strip to start it, and he would be wise to leave immediately after starting it.

jclarkdawe
07-23-2012, 11:14 PM
You keep track of criminal cases, and you'll learn way too many things.


I went with a simple ignition approach, and material that was easily available. Of course there's a big chance the bad guy is going to end up a flaming torch in the process. There's a couple of Rube Goldberg approaches to igniting this, but this guy seems more likely to want to see his results, then have delayed gratification.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Al Stevens
07-24-2012, 12:14 AM
Or, you could convince Bain that it's a likely company for a venture capital takeover...

onesecondglance
07-24-2012, 02:21 AM
Brilliant idea, JCD. My character does actually have legit access to flares, so that seems like an excellent ignition source.

ironmikezero - nice thinking, but there's no way he could get hold of or make a grenade.

espresso5
07-24-2012, 09:37 AM
Thermite is easy to make. It's something like 8:3 w/w iron oxide:aluminum. Just google it and you'll find plenty of recipes and probably a youtube vid or two.
In terms of burning down the building, I think with modern buildings it would be difficult to burn one down with fire, even if the fire suppression system was turned off. You could probably gut a floor pretty easily (pile up office furniture and set it on fire), but getting it to spread to areas above and below would be difficult. If there's a fire wall on that floor, it might not even breach that.
In your over the top scenario, the guy could make lots and lots of thermite and bring it in by the duffel bag full and pile it on the servers.

Snick
07-24-2012, 06:12 PM
Thermite is easy to make. It's something like 8:3 w/w iron oxide:aluminum. Just google it and you'll find plenty of recipes and probably a youtube vid or two.
In terms of burning down the building, I think with modern buildings it would be difficult to burn one down with fire, even if the fire suppression system was turned off. You could probably gut a floor pretty easily (pile up office furniture and set it on fire), but getting it to spread to areas above and below would be difficult. If there's a fire wall on that floor, it might not even breach that.
In your over the top scenario, the guy could make lots and lots of thermite and bring it in by the duffel bag full and pile it on the servers.

Thermite makes it easy for the fire to spread. The thermite will just burn through the floors.

Thermite is cheap and easy to make, so have wastebaskets full of it wouldn't be all that difficult.

BDSEmpire
07-24-2012, 08:46 PM
Or, you could convince Bain that it's a likely company for a venture capital takeover...
Hahah


Here's another part of the story you may want to consider. The system administrator for their network should get a text that something has gone down with the servers. Depending on where the MC strikes first, 1 - 5 minutes after losing contact with a server a monitoring system will send out a page to the admin on duty to let them know of an outage. As the servers continue to drop, the number of pages/texts will increase and your poor admin is going to have to change their shorts when they see a massive outage at their data center.

If you have admin level knowledge of the system then preventing this is easy - take down the monitoring server first. Then you can rampage without sending out a bunch of notices of your activity. This doesn't stop some eager beaver sysadmin from running their own probes from home. That's fairly common too - you want a test that's outside your network so that if the gateway to the internet drops you know about it.

Of course we're all human so sleeping through your phone's whiny messages is just as easy to have happen as it is for the admin to wake up and deal with the problem.

onesecondglance
07-25-2012, 01:14 AM
Thanks for the thought, BDSEmpire - this is a small company and the network admin is onsite when this all happens. He... doesn't do too well.

I have to say I've been impressed with the quality of answers here. Even better than usual! I'm going to combine a few of the ideas and see where it takes me. Thanks again to everyone.

xC0000005
07-25-2012, 03:55 AM
So there are all sorts of barriers to this. Anything modern's built with fire resistant sheet rock, anything modern is built with magnetic fire doors. Modern buildings will sent alerts to the fire department if the water pressure drops (yes, really) or if electricity or AC goes down. I work in a modern such building that had a real fire just a few days ago. If it's really a small company, he could go after the main servers (not realizing there's a backup in the cloud or offsite), torch the rack rooms (after disabling the halon systems), but getting rid of all the little machines is going to be one heck of a job. Assuming it can even be done. Now where things would really get ugly is if he forced a remote update that wipes all the little machines. Then cuts the water, and the power, kills the folks, and takes out the "main" servers.

I'm just trying to imagine how in a modern system with tiny replicas of the main data you'd get rid of them all. Burning down the server room will work, if it's filled with something combustible. Modern buildings are designed to retard fire growth and section it off.

WeaselFire
07-25-2012, 06:17 AM
Chlorine granules (pool supply house) in one side of an envelope, Brylcream in the other (a little dab'll do ya!). Fold the envelope in half so they don't touch. Walk in, unfold the envelope, tilt the granules into the Brylcream, wad it up and toss it in a trash bin.

Kid tested. Definitely not mom approved. :)

Jeff

onesecondglance
07-25-2012, 12:27 PM
Now where things would really get ugly is if he forced a remote update that wipes all the little machines. Then cuts the water, and the power, kills the folks, and takes out the "main" servers.

I think that's what I already said he was going to do? Not necessarily in that order, but those are the steps.