Just watched this documentary and I must say that I was totally shocked of the total lack of fire prevention in the underground. Wooden escalators? You would think that a country as old and rich in history would know better. I guess what was even more shocking that it took science to solve this. This was sad but come on the folks had no clue on fire drills or to handle such a thing as a fire in the subway. Please tell me that plans are in place if this ever happens again.
Further to Wolfe's response, rogo727 what documentary did you watch? I assume it cannot have been the excellent "Seconds From Disaster" as this made perfectly clear that the Kings Cross fire took place in 1987 and that as a result, safety on the Underground was completely overhauled. Specifically:
- The remaining wooden escalators were replaced in all stations by steel ones
- Smoking on the Underground was banned
- Emergency procedures came to the fore
So in response to your question, yes this type of incident should be better managed if it were to happen again - but I can't understand why the documentary you watched failed to make that clear?
As far as the science aspect and the investigaion into what caused the fire is concerned, this revolved around the need initially to understand what caused the fire and the subsequent fireball that was responsible for so many deaths.
You must remember that terrorist activity is something we have had to live with here in the UK for an awfully long time. Terrorists were routinely blowing the arms and legs off innocent men, women and children in London (Christmas campaigns were their favourite), and other towns and cities at that time, and terrorism was thought initially to be likely cause.
Even when that was ruled out, and a simple fire in a pit below the escalator (caused by a discarded cigarette) was known to be the cause, the investigators had to understand what turned this small, containable fire in a small part of the station into a catastrophic fireball.
It was thought that air, rushing in from trains entering and exiting the station helped create the fireball. However that was quickly ruled out. The truth was quite amazing and is where the science bit was required.
I cannot explain this science properly, but essentially, and in layman's terms, it was a combination of the wooden escalator, the angle of the incline and the fact any flames would be funnelled by the sides of the escalator that caused the fireball. So one minute the small fire was burning away on a small section of escalator, and then, once a certain temperature had been reached, the flames shot forward along the escalator (not straight upwards) like a bullet, incinerating those at the top of the escalator.
If you are interested I strongly recommend you watch the Seconds From Disaster episode on this event. It explains the above in good detail.
22nd November 1944 - The British Pacific Fleet is born (temporary avatar changes to commemorate the ships and aircraft). HM Ships Formidable, Illustrious, Victorious