crime

Smoke spread so fast at animation firm victims couldn't open rooftop door

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By Tim Kelly and Sam Nussey

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Could be time to use non flammable materials and have mandatory fire exits?

This was a disaster, an earthquake would exasabate the death toll. Building codes are ignored anyway, if they were taken seriously probably not so many dead. But no inforcement to the point of mansions leaning againt each other houses built that are unliveable and not one company fined or one president CEO jailed. Life is cheep.

Its such a sad story and sadder loss of life.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

I watched some photos of inside the offices posted by another JT user this morning. I didn't really see highly burnable materials (e.g. chemicals) nor lots of paper so still can't believe how fast the fire could've spread there. I assume gasoline vapors spread really rapidly through the building and ignited? Thats the only way I see this whole tragedy possible.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

You watch movies about people escaping from burning buildings and the fire slowly creeps towards them and maybe they don't realize how fast the fire and smoke can spread in a real situation. Shocking how it took only 15 seconds to be engulfed in smoke.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Panic terror dread... people tried to escape. Probably didn't think to close the doors behind them to stop the smoke spreading which also killed the largest group, 19 people on the stairs to the roof.

I don't agree that codes are ignored. If they are not enough, then it's the responsibility of the authorities not this company. This steel reinforced concrete building was very new. The shell and floors of the building withstood the intense heat of the fire.

After the construction is complete the building will be inspected before being passed over to the company and issued permission to operate it's business.

This was a computer based business with mostly young women workers. The company took pride in their working environment but you can't code for a fire bomber or other terrorists.

The 33 people, mostly young women are dead because of the evil actions of the bomber.

This articles includes a plan of the building. 19 of the 33 died on the stairs to the roof.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/07/019474b89533-most-victims-of-kyoto-blaze-found-on-stairs-to-rooftop.html

and this post includes studio photos

https://blog.sakugabooru.com/2017/03/10/anime-craft-weekly-33-kyoto-animation-studio-tour/

and this one for a GoFund donation

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-kyoani-heal

0 ( +3 / -3 )

These things happen quickly. Add in panic, rushing, and chaos, and one bad decision and it can be over. We'd like to say how we'd react in these situations, but when you're finally in it everything becomes a blur.

RIP.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Gasoline fires make HUGE amounts of toxic smoke. Years ago, I took a class as part of my job in proper use of a fire extinguisher, taught by the local fire department. For the fire, they used a 4' by 6' pan with about 20 gallons of gasoline in it. Once that pan was set on fire, it made such an enormous plume of smoke that we had a police helicopter fly over to check it out, because it had gone several hundred feet into the air. Knowing this makes the explanation about the KyoAni fire completely plausible.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I think it's time for Japan to overhaul the building safety law in regard to fire.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

why were they headed to the roof? oh, that is right, because there were not any fire escapes or ladders on the second or third floors. maybe the building was up to code, but then that just means there are really lax fire codes in japan.a three story building with more than 60 workers needs to have fire escapes. period. end. of. sentence.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

I've seen Japanese building standards. Often, they'll erect temporary structures to pass the initial inspection, and then dismantle them. Yearly inspections, unannounced, with escalating fines for repeat violters are needed.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

The fire must have been extremely intense fueled by the materials and solvents stored in the building. The gasoline poured and lit by the assailant would have burned out very quickly. The blackening around the windows of the building show a very intense, toxic and soot filled smoke from the materials within the building. Although they are stating many people burned to death, I'd guess most of them were dead before the flames got to them. All the blame is going onto the loon that lit the fire, but most of the deaths could have been avoided with proper solvent and flammable materials storage and a decent fire escape. Bricks don't burn!

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

why were they headed to the roof? oh, that is right, because there were not any fire escapes or ladders on the second or third floors. maybe the building was up to code, but then that just means there are really lax fire codes in japan.a three story building with more than 60 workers needs to have fire escapes. period. end. of. sentence.

There presumably more than one exit on the ground floor but there needed to be at least one more staircase to the ground floor. The roof does provide a refuge from fire, but fires are assumed to be accidental, rather than arson with gallons of an accelerant. The building would have been filled with dense smoke within seconds.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Of those who died, 19 were found piled on top of each other on a stairway between the third floor and a door to the roof, with some early reports suggesting it could not be opened from the inside.

But police quoted by NHK national television on Monday said investigations had shown that while the door could be opened from the inside, smoke from the blaze had apparently spread so fast that the victims were overcome before being able to do so.

So did anyone escape from the door leading to the roof? Seems odd that so many perished in a pile near the door if it wasn't locked...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japanese regulations covering fire safety leave a lot to be desired.

Seen fire doors in Japan? Nope, me neither;

Fire escapes leading to the roof. Where do you think all the smoke(rs) goes, dimwits?

No, folks, thats not a SodaStream, that's the one working fire extinguisher;

It doesn't matter, we can't use it anyway;

Stairs are not a makeshift storage room.
4 ( +6 / -2 )

This steel reinforced concrete building was very new. The shell and floors of the building withstood the intense heat of the fire.

I wonder where you got the information that the building was very new. If it's just because of the steel-reinforced concrete, that may not be the case, as that type of building has been common in Japan for decades.

The building itself was of a very simple design, suggesting that it was not all that expensive to construct, and upon looks alone, appears to be like one of literally thousands of others just like it here.

After the construction is complete the building will be inspected before being passed over to the company and issued permission to operate it's business.

Are you certain as well that the building was built for the purpose of the company? If the building had a previous owner or was built for another purpose, this may not have occurred and regular fire inspections are not carried out in far too many places here.

Typically, yes, a new building is inspected before being turned over, but once people move in and "stuff" gets accumulated over time, access to exits often becomes problematic, until it's too late.

But police quoted by NHK national television on Monday said investigations had shown that while the door could be opened from the inside, smoke from the blaze had apparently spread so fast that the victims were overcome before being able to do so.

"Could" ..... there will never be an answer to why it wasn't either. Just because it "could" does not mean it was accessible to the people inside.

It "should" have been easily opened by one push of the door or turn of a handle.

Another question that will never be answered either.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Disillusioned

The fire must have been extremely intense fueled by the materials and solvents stored in the building.

I pointed out to you on another post on this tragic attack. The company used computers to produce their work and I also provided you a link with internal photos of the studio. You didn't bother to check that out? It does not help to invent what wasn't true.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

So did anyone escape from the door leading to the roof? Seems odd that so many perished in a pile near the door if it wasn't locked...

They were in the stairwell, doesn't mean they were near the top. Maybe one person collapsed at the bottom, next person fell over them. Hard to get over a pile of bodies when you're surrounded by smoke and can't see. Or even when you can for that matter.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I wonder where you got the information that the building was very new.

From a posted blog link on the company/studio workings that I've posted at least twice. Also the fire photos show the concrete shell. There are also some photos online from inside the burnt building. Another link I gave has a plan and building plans from the Kyoto government records.

You guys need to do your own searches.

The building had a small elevator. A spiral stairs. Normal stairs between all floors and up to the roof. The building was made by the company.

Yabaru you are plain wrong on most of your comment. At least read all the links I provided. People died getting onto the roof but some survived. If they survive their terrible injuries the authorities might learn why they couldn't get the roof door, which according to reports, the firemen could open.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Step 1: Please arrest, try, convict and execute the individual who did this crime.

Step 2: Unless you work in the field of fire prevention and/or investigations, stop speaking your opinion as facts.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

It was stated that the building was up to code, just that it is too small to be under the fire regulations which would have saved lives.

However, Japan is no good at enforcing any regulations. I frequently see restaurants in Tokyo where they place boxes which completely block off the stairs such that the elevator is the only way in or out.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Step 1: Please arrest, try, convict and execute the individual who did this crime.

The crime was barbaric and horrific. But the death penalty is also an act of barbarism. It will not bring the dead back and it will not deter bitter and angry criminals from carrying out such acts.

Step 2: Unless you work in the field of fire prevention and/or investigations, stop speaking your opinion as facts.

Here on JT, there's a lot of opinions. Some of it is fact and some isn't. Surely you don't begrudge a bit of speculation - that's how these forums function. And if you spot falsehoods and or hypocrisy, point them out. It may not win you any friends but it's always good to get the truth out there.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The spiral staircase and staircase were the cause of the smoke spreading to upper floors. There were not have any fire/smoke doors on it. Roof door with two push bar locks on making it difficult to open.

Here's the report of one survivor.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/21/national/kyoto-animation-arson-survivor-hints-unusual-door-roof-may-prevented-employees-escaping-blaze/#.XTV10i2B27M

this photo shows the burnt out concrete shell and the spiral staircase.

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/iE20HR7AWW0w/v1/1000x-1.jpg

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There are three stairs between 1F/2F; 2F/3F; 3F/roof; but no stairwell which would help to have stopped the fire and smoke. Spiral stairs from 1F/3F. That would have acted like a chimney. Small elevator 1F/3F.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Another photo of the building layout

https://i.imgur.com/tlL7mFf.png

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Media say victims were burnt to death for most.

Very unlikely since most victims in the stairs, except if combustible materials stored in staircases.

They may have burnt after being dead of course.

One thing to say also : in this type of situation, a group may have panicked so to have done the wrong things (up to fight each other, cry/shout moving moving..).

In any building over 20 persons in a room/zone, double safety exit way shall exist.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Without moving...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Asked about the door, Kyoto Animation lawyer Daisuke Okeda said there were keys in two places,

Fumbling for keys in a panic situation sounds hopeless to me. The door should be designed so it could be opened from inside without keys.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A survivor who got to the roof and the lawyer are saying different conflicting statements.

from the survivor

The door was “a rare type,” having two metal levers, with one arranged above the other, said the man, an employee of Kyoto Animation Co.

To open the door, the two levers needed to be operated, the man said, recalling that he was “not good at opening the door at first.”

He was working on the second floor of the studio when the three-story building was hit by the arson attack that left more than 30 people dead and scores of others injured.

from the lawyer

Asked about the door, Kyoto Animation lawyer Daisuke Okeda said there were keys in two places, adding that he was aware of media reports the door was open but he did not know if it was.

“It had a normal door knob so it was not a complicated mechanism,” he told reporters.

https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN1UH08I-OCATP

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I think people need to give some time for investigations to happen and not jump into conclusions.

Just hope that whatever the results improvements can be made.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Kyoto Animation lawyer Daisuke Okeda said there were keys in two places, adding that he was aware of media reports the door was open but he did not know if it was.

It should not need keys to open it, just a simple push.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

After the construction is complete the building will be inspected before being passed over to the company and issued permission to operate it's business.

Not always the case.

The manufacturing J-company I formerly worked for built a new assembly line in 2016 The first and second floor housed the assembly line and warehouse and the 3rd floor the office for about 100 staff.

We were informed that the local fire dept was coming to inspect the building, they came in 2 fire trucks but never stepped into the building and left after about 10mins after talking with the factory head and bucho.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I have been wondering.

The building had balcony on the 2nd and 3rd floor yet nobody made it to the balcony.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It should not need keys to open it, just a simple push.

@Wanderlust - absolutely right. Anything more complicated than a simple push will claim those in a fire who are already exhausted or have limited visibility due to thick smoke.

There is also no mention in the article of people having access to a fire stairwell protected by brick firewalls. Speaking from experience having escaped a burning hotel years ago, the regular stairwell fills up quickly with fire and smoke. The firewall stairwell is designed not to burn and is typically the best option for escape.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's a horrifying experience with flames and thick black smoke. The last job I had in London before I moved to Japan was building engineer for a large office building for a national company. I was on the third level basement when the power room exploded from a 30,000 volt electrical explosion with fire balls bouncing everywhere.

The plant room filled with thick black smoke. Kept my head and went down on my belly and crawled up the stairs to the ground level floor and out into a car park. At that point I was able to hit the fire alarm. The basement plant was totally destroyed. I still have PTSD have 30 years.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@zichi

That's awful. A terrifying experience. Good you kept your wits about you.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

In the US, most buildings are required to have panic doors to any exterior exits. That way there is no knob and certainly no key required to exit the building. Rather there is a bar that extends across the door and you just have to push or lean against it to release the lock. These have been in place since I was a child and I’m now almost 50. With all the regulation in Japan, why would something so simple and inexpensive as this not be in place?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Rena Matsui, thank you as always for your simple good sense comments which effectively straightforwardly summarise the most appropriate responses.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@ zichi

Thanks for sharing: I hope your PTSD has diminished over the years. You were indeed lucky, but the scouse nouse must have come in handy, too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

u_s__reamer

Thanks for sharing: I hope your PTSD has diminished over the years. You were indeed lucky, but the scouse nouse must have come in handy, too.

Thanks. Loud and sudden bangs make me jump. The PTSD remains the same, just learn how to live with it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There were keys in two separate places.

Ummm... whether or not they were necessary, this and other evidence highlights a huge disregard of safety, as is evident by the huge loss of life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Lots of interesting posts with great points. Why were keys needed or required? If there was fire drills, then why was someone able to open the door easily as rehearsed during the exercises, and why did the one person who did open the door have such difficulty. Can a reporter from Japan Today provide us with the fire codes, for example no fire ladders, what about smoke alarms? Is it possible to have a copy of the actual building design posted and when or who approved it? What about any building or structural plans, comments before final design or construction. Thanks again everyone for interesting points of view.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The tragedy at Kyoto-based studio Kyoto Animation, known to its fans as KyoAni, in which arson claimed the lives of 34 workers and injured 35 others, is compounded by the fact that the studio had a reputation for providing excellent working conditions, a living wage, and permanent staffing in an industry known for relying on exploitive contract-based work. It was also proud to employ a predominantly female workforce.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency published a report stating that the building was completely destroyed by the fire. The building did not have fire sprinklers, nor indoor fire hydrants due to its classification as a small office building, but had no deficiencies in fire safety compliance during its last inspection on 17 October 2018.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Thanks zichi for all the information and links, it helps a lot having a better understanding.

Happy that you made it out and are able to go by with your PTSD.

Thanks for the information to help understand the situation from the others one too (smoke, speed, ...).

Regarding the "2 keys" stuff I think it is mistranslated. The lawyers said : > *there were keys in two places* The staff said that there was : > * two metal levers* I think the two of them are talking about the same thing : some kind of lock levers, something like a lock-bar *http://5.imimg.com/data5/UY/OO/MY-167062/panic-bar-500x500.jpg* but with a double system.
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks Zichi. But that last paragraph of yours points to something totally unacceptable for even small buildings where I live, to wit - no fire sprinklers. Just because it's a small office building? That's regulatory ignorance and incompetence, if not insanity.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fire officials told a city assembly panel that everything at the building had complied with the fire code and they were investigating why so many lives were lost, NHK said.

You can't let this statement pass without clarification of what "fire code" the building met. Without designated fire exits on each floor and a sprinkler system, this building does not meet any internationally recognizable fire code. Spiral staircases cannot be the only staircase in a commercial structure. There needs to be a convention stairway extraneous of the working spaces.

"It had a normal door knob so it was not a complicated mechanism," he told reporters.

And herein lies one of the problems - if the rooftop door was deemed an escape route, which is ludicrous, it should have had panic hardware, not a conventional knob of lever.

Again, no mention of a sprinkler system, either.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Stop with fire sprinklers. This is the american way for fire safety, but most of world fire prevention rules don't ask for fire sprinklers outside very large buildings, as in France.

No need at all and won't have made much differences if any since smoke from fuel and lack of safety exits are apparently the main culprits. By the way, you don't have fire sprinklers in staircases.

Let the investigation progress.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Asked about the door, Kyoto Animation lawyer Daisuke Okeda said there were keys in two places, adding that he was aware of media reports the door was open but he did not know if it was.

"It had a normal door knob so it was not a complicated mechanism," he told reporters.

Clearly it was locked if you needed a key to open it.... morons, the building also looks like one of those tempary buildings and judging from the black smoke made of plastic or carcinogenics

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Clearly it was locked if you needed a key to open it.

You’ve never heard of an unlocked door?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

ive been in many building here where the fireescapes are used as storage and the roof top door is locked. A life tip for all, always know your exits (work,home,shopping centre, it doesnt matter) truely a tragic event may they rest in peace.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The word "key" here is possibly a mistranslation for "lock". Japanese use the same word for both. A fire door with a locking pushbar will have a kagi (locking mechanism) but no physical key(s).

Further to Dr. Lucifer's point, the survivor who described the door as being difficult to open said he jumped from the second floor balcony. I must admit that on seeing the building, my first impression was "four sets of patio doors onto second and third floor balconies, plus lots of windows to jump out of". The building itself didn't strike me as evidently unsafe. Some buildings in Japan are clearly dangerous, little snack bars in Shinjuku with beer kegs stacked at the firedoor for example, but this one seems okay. The main problem is the horrific nature of the attack.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

To the people blaming the building not having any fire exit on the top levels, you are seriously underestimating petrol's destructive capabilities.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Smoke rises, that is why the stairwells filled with smoke, add panic and the fact that they most likely could not see due to the smoke, they only had a minute or so before they started to go unconscious.

I have fought fires aboard ship, and it gets very dark, very hot and smokey, and very frighting, very fast, and that is with training! With gasoline as the accelerant most things will burn or at least melt and put off toxic fumes.

Every company should have an escape plan and a drill every moth or so!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One other point, the vapors from the gasoline would have also risen and caused the fire to spread to levels above the ground floor! Depending on how long he waited to light the fire after he dumped the gasoline, it could have risen to the top floor very fast!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The worse design feature of this building and should never have been allowed is the spiral staircase from the ground/1F to the 3F.

When the attacker started the fire on the ground/1F the spiral staircase turned into a huge chimney.

The other main stairs is also a problem because its not enclosed in its own stairwell. They are separate open stairs between each floor. Giving no protection from the smoke and flames.

The authorities have a full investigation need to review the building codes for these types of buildings.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I am also assuming the Lawyers said "kagi" meaning locking mechanisms, and it was mistranslated as "keys".

I'd like to suggest to everyone going for a meal or a drink above ground floor in Japan to check the stairwells and if they are used for storage, go elsewhere. And post a comment and maybe even a photo on the hotpepper / gurunavi / tripadvisor sites. I ask when I make reservations and will sometimes walk up (to make sure the stairwell to the floors below aren't blocked. (One bad fire experience has been enough for me.)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The faulty safety features of this building starts with the architect who designed the building, the building company which built it, for not informing the company on the lack of safety. All the way up to the fire dept, the local government, those responsible for the building and fire codes. The company may have met the fire code but are still responsible too.

Commercial building should not be allowed to have spiral staircases. Even aside from the fire risks they are easy to fall over for the user which can cause injuries to them and others.

All stairs between floors should be enclosed in its own stairwell with fire proof doors and walls, smoke extractors, emergency lights. People should at least be able to survive for 30 minutes in a stairwell when there's a fire.

At least one fire hose per floor. External fire escapes from each floor. That would not have been difficult with this building. The cost would have been small.

According to the fire code only building over 5 floors are required to have a flat roof fire exit. This building is three floors. Fire exit doors are should the quick release bar type lock for quick exit.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Every construction has tradeoffs. If you don't have a spiral staircase, the staircase starts taking up more room, meaning less for everything else. Demands for more safety are infinite, and if this fire is to be the standard, instead of better staircases what they'll need is some kind of chemical fire suppression system, with tanks to store the suppressant.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

My fireman friend told me, once a space is on fire and filled with smoke, if makes visibility almost impossible. I guess that combined with panic and heat, made the building a death trap. Is there any other fire escape other than going on the rooftop?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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