AUTHOR: Susan McKelvey

REno fire

Recent Fires at Residential Occupancies under Construction Reinforce Critical Importance of NFPA 241

Townhouse complex fire in Reno, NV - Photo courtesy of Reno Gazette Journal Two massive fires in the last ten days occurred at residential complexes under construction, reinforcing the critical importance of following the fire and life safety requirements and guidelines addressed in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operation. Most recently, a fire at a six-story townhouse complex occurred in Reno, NV, early Thursday morning, resulting in the destruction of the majority of buildings under construction, according to local news reports. The Reno Fire Department confirmed that 14 of the 21 buildings were either destroyed or damaged. On July 16, a fire at one of two apartment buildings under construction in Everett, WA, reportedly spread throughout the structure, igniting nearby homes, decks and cars. While the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, fire investigators reportedly stated that the findings so far do not suggest criminal activity. Both fires reflect the latest in a series of significant fires in buildings under construction in recent years. While NFPA 241 works to mitigate the factors that often contribute to such incidents, several processes and procedures must be strictly implemented and followed for them to be effective. NFPA offers a series of resources around buildings under construction to help contractors, building owners and managers, code official and enforcers, and AHJs better understand the requirements and guidelines within NFPA 241, and to more effectively ensure that all parties involved in the construction process have the tools and support to adequately adhere to them. Most recently, we created a new fact sheet that provides statistical data around the frequency, causes, and financial impact of associated fires. Similarly, as COVID-19 has delayed many building projects already underway and, in some instances, forced construction sites to be left unattended for extended periods of time, comparable concerns around elevated fire risks have been raised. For the most up-to-date information from NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, check out https://www.nfpa.org/coronavirus
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NFPA Announces Restructuring of Regional Operations Field Staff

NFPA has announced the restructuring of its U.S. Regional Operations field staff, which will now function as a single team and be managed by Ray Bizal, regional operations director. Previously, regional representation was separate for public education and code-related support. Through these organizational changes, NFPA can better provide a single point of contact for stakeholders who rely on our resources and guidance as they work to keep their communities safe. Meredith Hawes and Kelly Ransdell, who formerly worked as regional education specialists within NFPA's public education division, will become regional directors for the Regional Operations team, joining Ray Bizal, Robbie Dawson, Robert Duval, Gary Honold, Gregory Cade, and Bob Sullivan.  Following are the states for which each regional director is now responsible:  Ray Bizal – CA, OR  Greg Cade – DE, OH, MD, NJ, PA, VA, WV, (DC)  Robby Dawson – AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, SC, TN  Bob Duval – CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT  Meredith Hawes – IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, WI  Gary Honold – AK, HI, ID, MT, ND, NE, SD, WA  Kelly Ransdell – AR, LA, MO, NC, OK, TX  Bob Sullivan – AZ, CO, KS, NM, NV, UT, WY Formerly serving as a regional director for seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin), Russ Sanders will now focus his efforts on NFPA's Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro) Section, which brings together fire service professionals around the globe and serves as an conduit for addressing emerging issues for large-jurisdiction departments.  The overarching role of NFPA's regional directors is to promote and support the use of all NFPA tools and resources, including NFPA codes and standards, training, certification, as well as public education campaigns like Fire Prevention Week, Fire Sprinkler Initiative state coalitions, and other key NFPA programs. 
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NFPA Offers 5 Key Tips for Safely Enjoying Outdoor Activities this Summer

With COVID-19 continuing to place limitations on social activities and engagements, people may increasingly turn to grilling, fire pits, and other at-home outdoor activities this summer, which presents an increased risk of associated fires. Here are five key reminders and guidelines for safely enjoying these activities: Make sure your gas grill is working properly Leaks or breaks are primarily a problem with gas grills. Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. If your grill has a gas leak detected by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and do not move it. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before re-lighting it. Never leave equipment unattended Make sure to closely monitor food cooking on the grill. Turn the grill off promptly when you're done cooking, and let it cool completely before returning it to its original location. For campfires, fire pits, and chimineas, always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby, and make sure the fire is completely out before going to sleep or leaving the area. Keep equipment a safe distance from things that can burn Place your grill well away (at least 3 feet) from anything that can burn, including deck railings and overhanging branches; also keep them out from under eaves. Keep portable grills a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic. Keep children and pets well away from any type of equipment in use. In areas where campfires are permitted, they must be at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn. Also make sure to clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs. Use fuel and fire starters properly If you use a starter fluid to ignite charcoals, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources. Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids on firepits, chimineas, or campfires. For electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire, make sure the extension cord you are using is designed for outdoor use. If a fire breaks out, call the fire department For any type of outdoor fire that can't be quickly and effectively extinguished, call the fire department immediately for assistance. While outdoor, fuel-based equipment like grills, fire pits, and campfires do present potential fire hazards, by following basic precautions and guidelines, these risks can be minimized.
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NFPA Announces “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” as Theme for Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, 2020 as Cooking Remains Leading Cause of Home Fires

NFPA has announced “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, 2020. NFPA's focus on cooking fire safety comes in response to home cooking fires representing the leading cause of U.S. home fires, with nearly half (49 percent) of all home fires involving cooking equipment; unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires.  While cooking continues to be a major contributor to the home fire problem, the vast majority of these fires are highly preventable. This year's Fire Prevention Week campaign works to better educate the public about where potential cooking hazards exist and basic but critical ways to prevent them. This year's focus on cooking safety is particularly timely, as the public may continue to avoid restaurants for some time and opt instead to do more cooking and entertaining at home, the potential for home cooking fires will likely increase as well.  Key messages around this year's Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” will include the following: Keep a close eye on what you're cooking; never leave cooking unattended Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — at least three feet away from your stovetop. Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don't use the stove or stovetop. For more information about Fire Prevention Week and this year's theme, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen,” along with a wealth of resources to help promote the campaign locally, visit fpw.org.  
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NFPA Provides Tips for Grilling Safely this Memorial Day and Beyond, Particularly as the Public Continues to Stay at Home in Response to COVID-19

While there will likely be fewer gatherings with family and friends this Memorial Day in response to COVID-19, many observances of the holiday this year will likely continue to involve outdoor grilling. Plus, as more people continue to cook at home in the warmer months ahead, many of them will turn to their outdoor grills to prepare and enjoy meals. These factors contribute to an increased risk of home grilling fires. In response, NFPA is reminding everyone to follow basic grilling safety precautions over Memorial Day weekend and beyond. According to NFPA data, cooking equipment is the leading cause of U.S. home fires overall, annually contributing to nearly half (49 percent) of all home fires. NFPA estimates show that between 2014 and 2018, an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues, which resulted in 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage. Gas grills were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year, including 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires annually. Leaks or breaks were primarily a problem with gas grills. July is the peak month for grilling fires, followed by June, May, and August.  NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season:  For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use. (Watch NFPA's video on how to check for leaks. This footage can be used as b-roll.)  Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat build-up from the grills and in trays below the grill. Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area. If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container. Never leave your grill unattended when in use.  Best wishes to everyone for a happy, safe Memorial Day weekend! As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage 
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Recent Fire Sprinkler Retrofit of 100-Year-Old Apartment Building Pays Off when Fire Breaks Out; No Deaths, Injuries, or Significant Property Damage Reported

Photos above provided courtesy of the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority (LFRA), Facebook Last Monday night at approximately 10pm, a 100-year-old apartment building in Loveland, CO experienced a fire. Fortunately, a fire sprinkler system had been installed and operational at the end of 2019 and put out the fire out before it could become large enough to threaten the occupants, building, or adjacent occupancies.   Formerly known as the Lovelander Hotel, the three-story occupancy, which includes an office and basement, primarily houses low-income residents. The fire began when an electrical/mechanical failure occurred in the cooling unit located between the first and second floors of the building.  According to local officials, had the fire not been suppressed by the newly retrofitted sprinkler system, it would have run through the space unchecked and likely incurred devastating impact, as the building was fully occupied with people and pets, most of whom were sleeping or getting ready to go to sleep for the evening.   Loveland Fire Rescue Authority (LFRA) Community Safety Division Chief Ned Sparks had been working in coordination with the apartment building's owner for seven years to complete the fire sprinkler retrofit. While this effort was reportedly a long and at times arduous process, widespread feelings of relief and thanks have reportedly been expressed by the building owner, the members of LFRA, and all those involved in working toward the successful installation of the sprinkler system less than one year ago. One of the many key areas of cooperation in the project to provide sprinklers in the building was the installation of the underground fire sprinkler line that supplies water to the fire sprinkler system. The cost of the installation of the underground fire sprinkler line was covered by a city-funded grant program that pays up to $25,000 in fire line costs for businesses in the downtown area of Loveland. Chief Sparks led the effort to establish the grant program in 2019, in cooperation with members of the City staff, and the goal of the program is to encourage the installation of fire sprinkler systems in the older buildings that currently lack sprinkler protection in the downtown area. The outcomes of this incident are also being recognized and celebrated by the nationwide network of residential fire sprinkler advocates who work year-round to promote the life-saving potential and value of sprinkler systems in residential structures. This is a true success story for all of them, and a testament to sprinklers' true effectiveness. Hopefully it serves as a powerful example to policy-makers, property owners, and others who continue to question the value or worth of installing or retrofitting sprinklers in residential structures, reinforcing that the time and money put toward protecting people and property is more than worth it.
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