Bowling Alley fires some of the most dangerous, challenging for firefighters

Bowling alleys flammable

MONROE, MI. (WTOL) - Fire fighters say bowling alleys pose a high fire risk. It comes down to two things: The construction design of the building and the flammable materials inside.

Fires have decimated at least two bowling alleys in our region this year.

Blazes reduced the Nortel Lanes Bowling Alley in Monroe to rubble early Wednesday morning and decimated the Twin Oaks Lanes Bowling Alley in west Toledo earlier this summer. Between the two, firefighters spent over ten hours combined trying to put these fires out.

Firefighters said the bowstring construction of many bowling alleys creates wide open spaces that allows fires to spread quickly. Many bowling lanes were designed decades ago with this roofing design to be sturdy. And while it is strong, it doesn’t do much to impede a spreading fire.

Firefighters said these fires quickly become defensive battles instead of offensive ones. Buildings with bowstring construction are prone to collapsing as heat builds inside and pushes the walls out. Add this to the flammable materials inside, and firefighters say they face one of the most challenging and dangerous types of fires to fight.

"Older bowling alleys have the lanes. Oil's been applied, that petroleum product's been applied over decades. The laminate on the floors obviously burns. They're just very high-content petroleum buildings. They have that content in there that burns quickly,” Toledo Fire and Rescue Pvt. Sterling Rahe said.

While bowling alleys do pose a high risk of fire, there are things owners can do to be preventive. Firefighters say make sure your building meets inspections and keep it up to code. They also say it's important to keep fire extinguishers handy.

A full investigation is underway into the Nortel Lanes fire. The cause of the Twin Oaks Lanes fire is undetermined.

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