Between 1965 and 1974, there were many large building fires in Japan which resulted in numerous fatalities. In response, several revisions were made to the fire regulations for large buildings in the Building Standard Law and the Fire Service Law, leading to a decrease in such fires until about 1980. Extensive fire damage was frequently seen in old buildings with insufficient fire prevention features, so application of the fire regulation revisions to existing buildings was a crucial problem.This paper compares the content and timing of fire regulation revisions, retroactive application to existing buildings, and time limits for retroactive application of each fire regulation with the average fire burned area of buildings in which fires originated according to usage and construction.I examine the main causes of the sudden decrease in fire damage to large buildings from about 1970 to 1980, and show that the decrease is due to a sharp reduction in the number of large fires, owing to the retroactive installation of automatic fire alarm systems.
Fire safety engineering has developed remarkably well over the last 4 decades, yet there are certain areas that have been systematically neglected or overlooked. On the basis of his long career in the profession, the author offers a number of areas for consideration where improvements are still clearly needed. These include: (1) learning from fire incidents in a systematic way; (2) studying fires in residential houses; (3) collecting statistics which are meaningful; (4) developing cost-effective codes and standards; and (5) considering the unintended consequences of fire safety provisions. Issues in each of these areas are illustrated with concrete examples.