Fire curtain replacement

np_pyro

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Jun 23, 2018
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San Diego, CA
Greetings,

I recently took control of a theater that is in need of some updates. One thing that stands out to me is the original fire curtain that has likely never been tested and needs to be reworked.

The facility was built in 1976. Proscenium opening is about 32'W x 16'H.

There is a full grid that is walk-able in the loft space.

The fire curtain is installed on the counterweight system as the first line-set with what appears to be the original hemp purchase line. In a steel channel with wire rope guides.

There are two release lines, one on either side of the stage with a short piece of steel chained to the wall and ground down on one edge to make a crude cutting device.




Obviously there can be a lot of variables, I understand. But, given some general assumptions in a typical scenario / perfect world, here are my questions I hope you might be able to help with.

1. - Were fire curtains still commonly made with asbestos in 1976.

2. - What might a rough idea of the cost be to replace this system to bring it up to current standards with a motorized control, etc. 10k, 20k, 100k?


I do plan to get specific quotes etc, but for now I need to present some rough budgetary numbers for this and some other items I see that need attention.

Thank you in advance for any advice / experience you can share.
 

Van

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Yes, Asbestos fire curtains were in manufactured through 77-78 if I remember correctly.
Best guess, and I'm not an estimator, closer to $60-70k new curtain, tracks, rigging, motorized braille winch etc. but it has a lot to do with the original installation and what current codes are in your area and how much stuff has to be replaced.
Also, I'm not familiar at all with Ca. asbestos abatement. Just did a replacement in Washington and it wasn't too difficult but I'm sure Ca has much more demanding regs and therefore higher costs for abatement Air quality testing, disposal etc. therefore costs for that phase could have significant impact on costs. Also, If your facility is "public" and the work is performed in conjunction with other structural work then the DSA may get involved. That typically has a significant cost impact as well.

First step get it inspected !
 
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np_pyro

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Yes, Asbestos fire curtains were in manufactured through 77-78 if I remember correctly.
Best guess, and I'm not an estimator, closer to $60-70k new curtain, tracks, rigging, motorized braille winch etc. but it has a lot to do with the original installation and what current codes are in your area and how much stuff has to be replaced.
Also, I'm not familiar at all with Ca. asbestos abatement. Just did a replacement in Washington and it wasn't too difficult but I'm sure Ca has much more demanding regs and therefore higher costs for abatement Air quality testing, disposal etc. therefore costs for that phase could have significant impact on costs. Also, If your facility is "public" and the work is performed in conjunction with other structural work then the DSA may get involved. That typically has a significant cost impact as well.

First step get it inspected !

Some great comments and insight. Thank you Van.

By DSA do you mean The Division of the State Architect?
 

MNicolai

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With only a 16' H proscenium opening, I would a little surprised if your space is actually required to have a fire curtain even with a walkable grid. How tall is your fly loft, measured from stage floor to the highest interior point in your fly loft (typically this will be the bottom of your roof deck)?
 
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np_pyro

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San Diego, CA
With only a 16' H proscenium opening, I would a little surprised if your space is actually required to have a fire curtain even with a walkable grid. How tall is your fly loft, measured from stage floor to the highest interior point in your fly loft (typically this will be the bottom of your roof deck)?

The opening is a bit small compared to the stage.

Floor to roof measures about 47' and about 37' to the bottom of the grid.

We do have some sort of smoke/fire detection system and sprinklers already. Unsure of the exact type of detectors or if the sprinklers are linked to the alarm or just heat sensitive.
 

egilson1

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Boston, MA
1. Yes
2. North of 50K. @Van is probably close in his estimate.

From Section 410.3.4 Stages of the Internation Building code

410.3.4 Proscenium wall.
Where the stage height is greater than 50 feet (15 240 mm), all portions of the stage shall be completely
separated from the seating area by a proscenium wall with not less than a 2-hour fire-resistance rating extending continuously from the foundation to the roof.

Keep in mind to properly work a fire curtain must be part of a complete system including ventilation. Can you convince the AHJ that a full replacement is not necessary? Maybe. It's worth a try. But I would recommend you hire a qualified person to consult with you before attempting that.

Ethan
 
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Van

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Some great comments and insight. Thank you Van.

By DSA do you mean The Division of the State Architect?
Yes, the dreaded DSA.
 

np_pyro

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Keep in mind to properly work a fire curtain must be part of a complete system including ventilation. Can you convince the AHJ that a full replacement is not necessary? Maybe. It's worth a try. But I would recommend you hire a qualified person to consult with you before attempting that.

Thank you for this code reference. I knew of it, but couldn't remember the exact height or where to find it.

I will definitely be consulting with others before attempting to convince the AHJ of anything. Our organization does have its own architects on staff that I'm sure will be much better suited to approach the issue with the local authorities.

Simply removing it would be better in my view from both practical and budgetary aspects.

Thank you for your help.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Clayton NY 13624
Whether you need to any longer have a fire curtain should be your first question, and if the stage floor to roof deck maximum is 50' or less, you don't, assuming the rest of the stage and perhaps some parts of the building meet current code for "new". That's really the basis, and usually is not an issue, unless somehow they got around fully fire sprinkling the building, which was possible in the 1970s, but rare.

Just removing an asbestos fire curtain is not inexpensive.

I have converted the rigging for removed fire curtains to general purpose. Add a rope lock and maybe replace handline.

If one is required or desired the size of your proscenium and the fact it can be a simple straight lift means does not have to be motorized, though you might want to for other reasons. I would guess not motorized less than $50K - maybe much less - depending on suitability of existing rigging for reuse and cost to remove and dispose old one. (I believe that if removed, your School will own that FC forever, buried someplace, and that part of cost of disposal is a premium for insurance so that if that buried piece ever is to blame for anything, you're covered. Its crazy.)
 
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SteveB

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Location
Brooklyn, NY
If anybody suggests a deluge curtain as alternative, scream NO over and over. The damage done from an accidental discharge is significantly greater than the cost of doing a modern version of the fire curtain.
 

venuetech

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A stage I worked was renovated in the mid 80’s the one thing they kept was the asbestos fire curtain. I think they updated it’s original 1964 rigging. I asked the consultant about it he said something like. That sniffer tests rarely showed any notable amount of free floating Asbestos fibers around an operating fire curtain in good condition. So there was no reason to replace it. But that was way back in the 80’s. And in a different state.
As in 1976 people were becoming aware asbestos was a bad solution. So It could be that the curtain is not asbestos but without documentation it may take an expert to tell you that.

So my question would be assuming the A-curtain and most rigging can still be used, what would it cost to motorize / update the operation?

After Inspection some of your options might be:
1 yell asbestos and replace everything (not a quick option as major big bucks must be found)
2 update to motorized operation (best imho if you can keep the big A, but will take time to plan and track down funding)
3 replace hemp handline/replace slash style fireline with ring release style. (a quick solution that can be done by nearby qualified rigger, and get you onto a regular test schedule. While you seek funding for other options)

If you can find any documentation on the installation that will come in handy.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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The only testing I know of was at the met as a result of musicians complaint. The report I heard was that even with a lot of raising and lowering and bumping the floor, the could not raise the particles in the air to an action level. And there are coatings, usually only looked into when the curtain is decoratively painted.

Even if you could keep asbestos, I'd advise against it. Its too political and will come back over and over again.

Get rid of it if you can and dont worry. By all records I've found they don't save people, so if not required, why spend on it.
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Our asbestos curtains were replaced mid 1980’s with - I want to say “ Xetex” but not sure. It’s a double sided on a metal frame with dedicated line set, counterweight with motor drive. It also needs an upgrade and tie in to the fire alarm system and it’s going to be expensive. My college is currently ignoring the problems but hope the solution isn’t deluge, though I hope to be retired before they go that route.
 
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egilson1

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Thermotex (technically THERMO-SPEC Fabric Style 44-WFC) is another fiberglass fabric like Zetex.
 
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SteveB

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Location
Brooklyn, NY
Zetex basic replacement for asbestos - a coated fibreglass. Same as what us sold for new today.

Tieing into fire alarm should not be hard nor expensive but may be simpler to just add detectors.
Besides the motor needing major overhaul or replacement, an FA trip system needs to get installed. Currently it’s pull release or cut the tensioned rope, so needs to be updated and set to trip with FA. Plus heat sensors, etc...l. A theatrical rigging firm (not Sapsis or PDO) did a report and was clear on not doing a deluge, thank God.
 
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