top of page
  • Writer's pictureTim Spears

Reducing Fire Risk in Construction: Insights from a San Francisco Incident

Before dawn broke over San Francisco, firefighters were called to a fire at an apartment building under construction in the prestigious Presidio Heights neighborhood. The building, located at the intersection of Lion and Clay streets, comprised six units across four floors. Despite the magnitude of the fire, the structure remained sound, allowing fire crews to perform mop-up operations and commence an investigation into the cause of the fire (KRON 4, 2024).

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the inherent risks associated with construction sites and underscores the critical need for rigorous fire safety measures throughout the construction process. More information can be found in this news report from KRON 4.

Understanding the What and Why: The Importance of Fire Safety in Construction

Construction sites are uniquely vulnerable to fire, with potential hazards lurking at every stage of the build. From exposed materials to incomplete fire protection systems, the risk is magnified when compared to occupied buildings. The fire at Presidio Heights, although contained without injury or structural collapse, highlights the essential nature of preventive practices and emergency preparedness.

Construction Fire Safety: Key Strategies and Best Practices

The recent San Francisco fire, which occurred during the overnight hours when the building was unoccupied, prompts us to revisit the best practices for mitigating fire risks on construction sites. Based on the comprehensive guidelines found in various international codes and standards like NFPA 241, here are crucial strategies for construction fire safety:

  1. Pre-construction Planning: Engage fire prevention experts early in the design process to integrate fire safety measures from the ground up.

  2. Regular Inspections: Implement daily inspections to ensure compliance with fire safety norms and the project's fire plan (CFSC, n.d.)​​.

  3. Control of Flammable Materials: Limit onsite storage of combustible materials and enforce strict handling protocols for flammable substances.

  4. Enhanced Site Security: Since construction sites are often unattended during the night, it is crucial to ensure robust security measures to deter vandalism or arson, which can escalate fire risks. Effective security measures may include installing surveillance cameras, hiring night-time security personnel, and ensuring adequate lighting around the site (CFSC, n.d.)​​​​.

  5. Fire Safety Training: Conduct mandatory fire safety training for all workers, focusing on emergency response procedures and the importance of maintaining a tidy work environment.

Common Questions About Construction Fire Safety

Q: What role does the building owner play in fire safety during construction?

A: The building owner is responsible for appointing a Fire Prevention Program Superintendent to oversee and implement the fire safety plan, ensuring alignment with local fire codes and regulations​​ (CFSC, n.d.)​​.

Q: How can communication with local fire authorities be optimized?

A: Prior to construction, meet with local fire services to discuss the project details, access points, and fire protection measures, fostering a cooperative relationship that can enhance emergency responses if needed (CFSC, n.d.)​​​​.

Engage With Us: What’s Your Take?

How does your organization handle fire risk management on construction sites? Are there specific challenges you've faced or solutions you've found particularly effective? Share your experiences in the comments below to help us build a community of practice around safer construction environments.

Why It Matters: Building a Safer Future

The incident in San Francisco is a call to action for all stakeholders in the construction industry. By implementing robust fire safety protocols and fostering a culture of compliance and vigilance, we can significantly reduce the risk of fires. Remember, effective fire prevention on construction sites not only protects property but, more importantly, saves lives.


CFSC-SummaryOfBasicFirePrecautions-1809.pdf. (n.d.). [Summary of Basic Fire Precautions for all Construction Sites]. Retrieved from

KRON 4. (2024, April 26). Firefighters put out massive fire in SF apartment building [Video]. YouTube.


bottom of page