By Brad Cochrane
Deputy Fire Chief – Operations Division, C-shift
Fire and Rescue Department
While once a staple in the structural design of buildings with long span roofs, the bowstring truss is now a piece of construction history. However, they remain in place in older (pre-1960s) building stock. They are controversial today because of how they react when exposed to fire. FireRescue Magazine published a very illuminating article in 2013 about bowstring trusses that is worth a read. Just last month, crews in Des Moines battled a fire with a dramatic collapse of a bowling alley roof.
Are there bowstring trusses in Fairfax County? The answer is YES, but county data from that time is limited, and truss types were never recorded anyway. However, if you as a building-owner, architect, engineer or contractor encounter bowstring trusses (wood or steel) during renovations or alterations, please report the address and location to the building official who will notify the Fire and Rescue Department. Fire officials will preplan the building and be better prepared during an emergency on how to best respond to a fire involving a bowstring truss.