fire escape, in architecture, device, either fixed or movable, to facilitate escape from a burning building. In the United States the term usually is applied to the common iron balconies and stairways or ladders that give exterior egress from each floor to the ground. In England the term refers to a portable extension ladder that may be wheeled up to a burning building to enable occupants to escape when ordinary exits are cut off.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.