Topic: Research

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Make sure your car does not start a wildfire

Due to the extreme conditions in some areas such as low humidity in the vegetation, extended periods of drought, high temperatures and high winds, extreme caution should be paramount in everyday activities out of doors.  Driving a car is one of the activities we all enjoy during the summer season, especially as we travel for summer vacation time.  Make sure that your road trip is not the cause of a wildfire.  The Arizona Department of Transportation shared some tips: Avoid driving or parking your vehicle in tall grass. (Or any tall dry vegetation) Never throw a burning cigarette out of a vehicle. When pulling a trailer, attach safety chains securely; loose chains can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires. Look behind you before driving away from fire-sensitive locations, such as areas with tall grass or campsites, to check for signs of a developing fire. Observe “Red Flag” fire-weather warnings. These warnings are issued when weather conditions are conducive to the easy start and rapid spread of wildfires. Always use a spark arrestor on internal-combustion engines. You can also: Follow all public-use restrictions and access closures – It is important to check with local agencies about any closures before venturing off road. Be prepared – Carry a shovel and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and OHV. Call 911 immediately if you see a roadside fire and give an accurate description of the size and location of the fire including mile marker information, the side of the road (are you traveling east, west etc.), the last exit you passed or nearest landmark. Car Fires themselves can be a cause of wildfires.  A June 14th 2015 article in the Boise Weekly, Car Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Jump Creek, shared that; "Firefighters say a car fire—the third in one week—sparked a wildfire that has scorched more than 330 acres, eight miles south of Marsing."  Another article dated June 19th 2015 on the KCRA.com website, Roadside Truck Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Oakhurst, talked about a pickup truck that caused a fire near Oakhurst, California that burnt hundreds of acres.  Many times simple maintenance items overlooked can cause your car to catch fire.  The NFPA has some interesting statistics on car fires: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage. Facts and Figures Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths. On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week. Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires. Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths. Only 2% of automobile fires began in fuel tanks or fuel lines, but these incidents caused 15% of the automobile fire death. You can take simple steps to prevent a car fire: For more information about car fire safety download the NFPA's car fire safety pdf.  Enjoy your road trip wherever your travel plans take you and have a safe and memorable time.
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Doing the right thing the right way to prevent sparking a wildfire

Now that summer is upon us, we all want to do our part to keep our homes and properties safer in the event of a wildfire but it is so important to act carefully, taking the necessary precautions not to be the cause of a wildfire while trying to do the right thing.  Operating equipment like chainsaws, lawn mowers, and tractors improperly can cause sparks that could ignite a wildfire. We need to act with care to make sure that we are doing the right thing the right way.  A CAL FIRE flyer stated that over 1,600 wildfires are caused in California alone using equipment the wrong way.  You don't want to be the cause of a wildfire by using a mower improperly, like the Golden Gates Estate fire in Florida, or the 22 million dollar Oregon wildfire. Picture submitted for Wildfire Prep Day activity by Debora Rice from North Fork, California Here are some important tractor use and mowing tips to help you do the right thing the right way: (Remember metal blades hitting rocks can spark a wildfire) Mow during the cool time of day generally while there is still dew on the ground, not during the day and especially not when the wind is blowing. Don't top off fuel tanks. Make sure spark arrestors are in proper working order and there is no carbon build up. Keep a shovel and water source or fire extinguisher close by at all times. When transporting tractors, mowers and recreational vehicles make sure that chains on the trailers are not hitting the pavement as you are driving, throwing sparks. Take special care when using mowers and tractors in dry grass that can easily ignite. Remove rocks and metal from the yard that could be hit by the mower and cause sparks. Keep a cell phone with you and dial 911 in the event of an emergency. The US Forest Service (with their One Less Spark One Less Wildfire Campaign) along with Betty White created a cute YouTube video that reinforces how you can be more careful as you act responsibly this year while you work and play outside.
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Fire Chief: Why are we not giving the fire death of a two year old in a new home the attention it deserves?

It took the Baldwinsville, New York, Fire Department only three minutes to arrive at the scene of a recent home fire. The fire had already intensified to the point that a veteran firefighter couldn't make entry. He waited for the engine company's arrival. Inside the home was two-year-old Nora Lamirande, who was napping in an upstairs bedroom while her mother and brother were outside enjoying the spring weather. The brother headed to a neighbor's home as the mother followed, only to return to see the structure in flames. Something left on the stove was the apparent catalyst, per a report on the incident. Despite a valiant effort by firefighters, Nora died--in a home built only two years ago. Why this story, which highlights all the reasons why sprinklers in new construction are necessary, hasn't gotten more attention has baffled Fire Chief Rick Ennis, chair of the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition. He has shared a personal essay on the tragedy with NFPA: Today marks one week since two-year-old Nora Lamirande's funeral, who died in a fire that occurred in a new home, in a new subdivision. A fire in a home that should have had a home fire sprinkler system. A fire that would have undoubtedly had a much different outcome had a home fire sprinkler system been provided and installed by the homebuilder. Last night, I was checking online to see if there had been any updates regarding this fire. I was checking to see if any of the fire service agencies or fire service publication sites had picked up on the incident. Still nothing (again, if anyone can show me that I am missing something, please do so). I came across a story on Syracuse.com posted May 5 that reported that a Gofundme account set up for the family had raised more than $50,000 in one day. The report cited there had been 860 donations, ranging from $5 to $1,000, with one donor writing, "no one should have to bury a child." I admire each and every person that made a donation to that account. But I find it sadly ironic and quite frustrating that we have allowed the National Association of Home Builders to convince everyone from consumers to politicians that a small fraction of that amount of money is “too much” to invest upfront to rapidly get water on a fire and keep this type of tragedy from occurring in the first place. I realize this story is no longer “news”. The fire occurred nearly two weeks ago. Nora's funeral was a week ago. Several other fire deaths, injuries, rescues and “big fires” have since made headlines. The story now is how in the world this fire seems to be passing under the fire service's radar. I did get a reply from the NFPA that assures me they are looking into the fire. I realize that will take considerable time and effort to do so with the thoroughness required. I am just glad to know it is happening. I've received some interesting and valued feedback from others. I wrote an initial response to this tragedy, where I stated "a home fire sprinkler system could have changed the outcome of this fire. We encourage all to research and learn more about this fire and ask the question: Why, in 2015, does a fire like this take a life in a newly built, single-family home?" I am not suggesting that reevaluating our perspective on fire sprinklers is the only way to improve fire suppression, firefighter safety, and service delivery, but I will not back off that it would be an improvement to all of these critical areas of the fire service. In eighteen years as a fire chief, I have consistently avoided using the emotional “burning baby” appeal to justify anything. I am reluctant to allow this incident to be used in such a manner. I cannot claim to imagine how the mother or the family feels right now, nor how they will be moving forward. My intent is simply to use the opportunity this fire offers to create dialogue, to question the status quo. My hope is that at some point in the near future, this fire gets the attention it is worthy of, within the fire service, within the courts, and within political chambers. My hope is that positive change in the future can result from Nora's death. My challenge to us all is that we all help ensure this happens. Please share Ennis' essay via social media and email and help spread the word about this tragedy.
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Fire Prevention Week past and present

 The history of Fire Prevention Week is very interesting. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire  Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has  been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9  falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's  Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running  public health and safety observance on record. The President of the  United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national  observance during that week every year since 1925.Wow! As NFPA gears up for Fire Prevention Week 2013, Prevent Kitchen Fires, I read through the themes of the past. Here are just a few: 1928 FIRE…Do Your Part – Stop This Waste!1947 YOU caused 1,700,000 Fires last Year!1948 Help Yourself to Fire Prevention!1949 Flameproof Your Future!1950 Don't Let Fire Lick You1951 Defend America From Fire1959 Fire Prevention is Your Job…Too1995 Watch What You Heat: Prevent Home Fires! Although the campaign themes have wording we might not use today, the general theme remains the same since 1922. Fire Prevention is all encompassing. We need everyone from the fire service, teachers, parents and children to keep people safe from fire.  Whether you are a local business looking to educate staff on kitchen safety, classroom teachers educating students on what to do if the smoke alarms sounds or firefighters giving a presentation to older adults in the community, the Fire Prevention Week web site has information and tools for everyone. I think my favorite past theme is from 1979, Partners in Fire Prevention. This says it all! We are all in this together. Take a look at past themes and let me know which is your favorite.
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Seven workers die in Confined Space Accident at Corona Brewery

Well, my confined space blog may have slowed down a bit in the past couple months due to other ongoing work, but unfortunately the confined space fatalities have not slowed down... In April, seven workers were killed in a tank that was undergoing maintenance and cleaning at a plant in Mexico City operated by Corona beermaker, Grupo Modelo.  It is believed that four victims were maintenance contractors and three victims were other Modelo employees.   There are few details available on the incident.  It is speculated that the deaths were due to “unspecified toxins” and that the three Modelo employees had entered the tank in an effort to rescue the other four contract employees.   Mexican authorities are reportedly investigating the incident.   Confined spaces are or should be clearly recognized in the beer industry.  The large numbers of tanks that are entered for maintenance and cleaning, combined with hazardous atmospheres including carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, inert atmospheres, and ammonia from refrigeration systems creates significant confined space entries and hazards.   These incidents do not just happen in foreign countries, and wine makers are also not off the hook when it comes to confined spaces.  A confined space death occurred just two years earlier at Napa California at Ancien wines when a worker was overcome by nitrogen and argon gases inside a tank.   Workers entering into tanks in the beer and wine industries should be intimately familiar with confined space entry procedures.  Even if contractors were always used to perform confined space entry work, it is unclear why Modelo employees would have entered the tank if they had been trained to recognize the confined space hazard.  The Modelo company has been in operation since 1925 and is the maker of the number 1 imported beer in the United States.  This confined space incident has the largest loss of life in one entry that I am aware of.  While it is not uncommon to lose 2-3 workers, this incident claimed the lives of 7 workers.  Confined space entry hazards continue to claim lives despite improved recognition of the hazards and despite regulations and guidelines available to prevent such incidents.   The National Fire Protection Association is developing a Best Practices document for confined space entry. This document will address gaps in existing standards and will be more prescriptive in describing things like how to test the atmosphere in and around confined spaces prior to entry.  The NFPA document is looking to go beyond the minimum standards and to provide those looking to develop a “gold star” confined space entry program with the information they need to do so.  Please email me at npearce@nfpa.org for further information and/or leave a comment below for discussion.  I look forward to hearing from you!
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