All Together Now
The Rim Fire and the need for a collective approach to our escalating wildfires
By Scott Sutherland
Every day, about 260 million gallons of water flow out of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, near Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierras. The water makes the 160-mile (257-kilometer) downhill trek west to San Francisco, where it fills the dishwashers and bathtubs of some 2.6 million people, or roughly 80 percent of the city’s residents. The reservoir, which was created in the 1920s by damming the Tuolumne River, also hosts three hydroelectric plants that supply San Francisco with almost all of its power.
But those life-sustaining products of the Sierras have come under threat from the colossal Rim Fire, which began in mid August and was still growing — to more than 300 square miles (777 square kilometer) — as this issue of Journal went to press. The fire threatens to contaminate the reservoir with ash and other particulate, which would force the city to draw on emergency supplies from other reservoirs. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission had already shut down two of the three power plants at Hetch Hetchy due to the threat of fire, and by August 29 the city had spent around $600,000 purchasing power from elsewhere on the grid. The events prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Francisco.
For Molly Mowery, program manager for Fire Adapted Communities and International Outreach in NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division, San Francisco’s predicament illustrates how wildfire’s impact can easily travel far beyond the hot zones of the wildland/urban interface (WUI). “The threats to water, power, and other infrastructure that could affect a major urban center are perfect examples of why wildfire is everyone’s concern,” she says. “It’s easy to think that only the people living in the WUI are affected, but the reality is that the impact of these fires is often regional. We need to take collective ownership of these kinds of disasters, and that includes the work we do to prepare for them.”
Char Miller, a firefighting expert and a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, California, further sharpens the point. “The challenges that the Rim Fire poses for firefighters and the citizens of San Francisco are exponentially greater than [with] a typical wilderness fire,” he told The Christian Science Monitor. “The fire ought to make it crystal clear to San Franciscans how critical the Sierras are to their daily life.”
It could be argued that, to maintain the quality of that daily life, more of California’s residents should share the cost of prevention and mitigation. In 2011, the state instituted a “fire prevention fee” of $150 that it levied on about 850,000 people living in various fire-prone areas of the state. By focusing on residents of the WUI, however, the scheme misses the bigger picture of wildfire’s significant ripple effects; it’s tempting to imagine the sorts of prevention and mitigation efforts that could be undertaken in the Sierras if Bay Area residents were asked to pony up a fire prevention fee of their own.
The money problems are everywhere. The sequester afflicting federal spending has hamstrung the U.S. Forest Service, which by August had run through its wildland firefighting budget for the year, with the busiest months still to come. In California, recent budget battles have resulted in cuts to firefighting services, and the Rim Fire had burned through at least 20 percent of the state’s annual firefighting budget of $172 million. “And then there’s the how-not-to example of San Diego County, the only major urban county in California without its own fire department,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in August. The county depends on other state and local agencies for help in the event of wildfire — a kind of welfare county for firefighting. Hardly the model of collective responsibility championed by Mowery and others, one that provides a foundation for the mitigation and prevention principles that form the core of NFPA’s Fire Adapted Communities initiative.
Meanwhile, scientists at the National Interagency Fire Center say that the average wildfire is now five times larger than it was 30 years ago. Millions of additional people and structures are filling the WUI, while an expanding infrastructure creates ever-stronger links between urban centers and wilderness. Like it or not, we’re in it together. “Everybody has a responsibility in this,” says Mowery. “It’s not just an issue for people who own property in the WUI — this is an issue for society.”
The New NEC is Here
The 2014 National Electrical Code makes its debut, along with an NEC app for photovoltaic requirements
NFPA is rolling out an assortment of resources to accompany the August launch of the 2014 edition of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®).
For instance, the newly developed necconnect.org, an online community highlighting the new edition and electrical news, will host a series of “webisodes” featuring Bill Burke, NFPA’s division manager of Electrical Engineering, and other industry experts discussing the NEC’s new requirements. Additional webisodes will address code adoption efforts, training, networking opportunities, and relevant NEC articles.
Other companion resources — including the 2014 NEC Handbook, pocket guides for residential and commercial applications, and e-books — are coming soon. “To members of the electrical community, the release of the latest edition of the NEC is highly anticipated because it provides the most up-to-date electrical safety requirements that will impact their work,” says Mark Earley, NFPA’s chief electrical engineer.
Solar safeguards: Naturally, there’s an app for that
Some of the NEC’s requirements are in response to the growing popularity of green power technology. The solar industry, for example, is on par for another record-setting year; residential photovoltaic (PV) installations grew 53 percent this year over similar first-quarter estimates from 2012, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
With this rise comes an increased need for safely installing and inspecting PV systems, which is why NFPA has developed the PV-NEC app.
Functional on any electronic device with an Internet connection, the app underscores key sections of NFPA 70 pertaining to these systems. For each work project, which is designated as a “site” in the app, installers adhere to a checklist with categories and subcategories related to an NEC requirement, which include grounding the system and connecting to the utility. Inspectors have their own checklist and can note which components of the system “passed” or “failed” the requirements. Users can also access the NEC article on PV systems and NEC Handbook material from the 2008 and 2011 editions. NFPA anticipates incorporating 2014 NEC Handbook material into the app by early next year.
Member prices for the app begin at $135. For more information and to purchase, visit pvnec.org.
— Fred Durso, Jr.
FIRE PREVENTION WEEK
Digital freebies, an online contest, and a kitchen fire safety theme mark this year’s Fire Prevention Week
By Fred Durso, Jr.
Like SO MUCH OF LIFE, it’s all about what happens in the kitchen.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW), with the theme of “Prevent Kitchen Fires,” highlights the dangers of unattended cooking and risky kitchen habits. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and a significant contributor to home fire deaths.
The 2013 FPW will be observed October 6–12, and as always Sparky the Fire Dog® is playing a prominent role in this year’s event, including the promotion of his Sparky’s Wish List. He also continues to place his paw print squarely on the digital world. NFPA’s new e-book, Rescue Dogs, Firefighting Heroes, and Science Facts, featuring NFPA’s four-legged mascot and stories about fire safety, will be released in time for this year’s FPW. The e-book accompanies the new iPhone- and iPad-compatible “Sparky’s Birthday Surprise” app, which highlights fire safety skills for children. Both the free app and e-book can be accessed online at sparky.org/appworld.
Also in time for FPW, NFPA will release four new videos and accompanying tip sheets on fire evacuation procedures, 9-1-1, smoke alarms, and stop, drop, and roll. Anyone who takes a quiz underscoring key takeaways from the videos and tip sheets will be entered into monthly drawings beginning in September for a chance to win an iPad mini.
The drawings are open to U.S. residents ages 18 or older. For complete contest details, visit nfpa.org/2013fpwcontest.
Access NFPA’s FPW materials at fpw.org.
NFPA Mourns the Loss of Philip DiNenno
Philip DiNenno, president of Hughes Associates, Inc., and a member of NFPA’s Board of Directors, died at his home in Finksburg, Maryland, on August 18. He was 60 years old and had been diagnosed earlier this year with esophageal cancer.
DiNenno’s history with NFPA was extensive. He served on many technical committees, including Gaseous Fire Extinguishing Systems, Merchant Vessels, Water Mist Fire Suppression Systems, Halon Alternative Protection Options, Fire Investigations, and Fire Tests. He served on NFPA’s Standards Council from 1998 to 2007 and was chair from 2002 to 2007.
In 2011, DiNenno received NFPA’s Paul C. Lamb Award in recognition of his volunteer spirit, leadership skills, and dedication to NFPA goals. This year, his contributions to fire safety and codes and standards development were recognized when he received the NFPA Standards Medal.
Before joining Hughes Associates in 1985, DiNenno worked as a fire protection engineer at Benjamin/Clarke Associates and Professional Loss Control, Inc. He was a registered professional engineer in Tennessee and Arizona and held a B.S. in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland, where he also lectured from 1977 to 1990.
“Phil will be remembered as one of the most outstanding leaders that NFPA has ever had,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. “He was an extraordinarily effective advocate for fire safety and the most respected person in fire protection engineering of his generation. His contributions to NFPA and our mission are incalculable.”
— Mike Hazell
HOME FIRE SPRINKLERS
A new study finds the cost of installing sprinklers in homes is falling. Plus, sprinkler advocates receive NFPA accolades.
Life is about to get a little tougher for home fire sprinkler opponents who argue that the systems jack up the price of new homes.
A new independent report indicates that the average installation cost per sprinklered square foot is $1.35, down from the $1.61 per square foot that was originally publicized in a 2008 sprinkler report.
Commissioned by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the new report, “NFPA Sprinkler Cost Assessment 2013,” aims to better understand the impact of sprinkler ordinances on system costs and other characteristics. The study sampled 51 homes in 17 communities, compared to 30 homes in 10 communities in the 2008 study.
All jurisdictions selected installed sprinkler systems in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Installation costs, states the report, were significantly lower in California and Maryland, which have statewide sprinkler ordinances.
For more information, download the complete report at nfpa.org/foundation.
The award goes to…
Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Minick from the North Charleston, South Carolina, Fire Department received the 2013 Bringing Safety Home Award, presented in August by NFPA and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC). The award recognizes efforts of fire chiefs to increase installation of home fire sprinklers in their community.
Minick volunteered to chair the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition and has spearheaded more than 20 fire sprinkler demonstrations since 2011. These events have utilized materials from NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative, which encourages the use of home fire sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings through the adoption of codes and ordinances. “Having a local advocate willing to take the lead on fire sprinkler education is key to making progress both in public awareness and in strong public safety requirements,” says Lorraine Carli, HFSC’s board president and NFPA’s vice president of Communications.
NFPA also recognized Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton with a special award in July for his fire safety efforts. Over the past few years, Dayton has vetoed an anti-sprinkler bill and legislation that would have prohibited jurisdictions from requiring home fire sprinklers. “Nobody has shown leadership and courage when it comes to fire safety like this governor has,” says NFPA Regional Director Russ Sanders, who presented the award.
— Fred Durso, Jr.
Facebook, LinkedIn hit 50,000
You like us. You really, really like us.
NFPA hit a pair of social media milestones in August: Its Facebook page surpassed 50,000 “likes,” and its LinkedIn discussion group, a popular forum for codes and standards topics, had its 50,000th member sign up.
“There are more than a million groups on LinkedIn for people to choose from, but only a small number of these groups ever reach the 50,000-member mark,” says Lauren Backstrom, NFPA’s social media manager. “NFPA is now considered one of these special ‘super groups.’”
Check out all of NFPA’s social media channels by visiting nfpa.org/socialmedia.
— Fred Durso, Jr.
THE END OF SUMMER FUN
What happens when classic rock meets fire and life safety? We asked you to tell us. And you did.
Now we know for sure: Great minds think alike. Or at least great minds that have been subjected to an awful lot of classic rock.
In any event, a fearless handful of you stepped up to take our “Adapt That Tune!” challenge, advertised prominently in our last issue, where we asked you to adapt the titles of classic rock and pop tunes so they reflected a more safety-conscious view of the world, or at least messed around with fire protection jargon. To wit: “Mitigate My Fire,” a stand-in for the Doors’ classic, or “Products of Combustion on the Water,” a variant of the chestnut by Deep Purple.
A few intriguing patterns popped up in your submissions. Mark Herzog, with Hiller Systems in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Tim Croushore, with FirstEnergy Technologies in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, both landed on “Burning Down the House,” by Talking Heads. Mark’s adaptation was “3 Alarmin’ Down the House,” while Tim took a slightly different approach with “Cremating the Residence.” Tim also took on Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with “We Didn’t Initiate Ignition”; so did Rich Lupien, with Kidde-Fenwal in Holliston, Massachusetts, who went with “The Children Knew Better Than to Ever Start a Fire.” Let’s hope so.
Other notables included Mark’s riffs on Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Pyre”) and Elvis (“Hunka, Hunka Fully-Involved Love”), and his “Blazin’ on the Bayou,” with its percussive alliteration, is arguably better than the Neville Brothers’ original title, “Fire on the Bayou.” Rich also scored with “Clean Agent Suppression Man,” his reboot of Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.” Tim represented for the ladies, turning Pat Benatar’s “All Fired Up” into “ Vigorous Conflagration.” Bill Christy, with Allianz Risk Consulting in Columbus, Ohio, wrung “Comin’ Under Ignition” out of Def Leppard’s “Comin’ Under Fire” (off their album “Pyromania,” it should be noted). Finally, Donald Mayo, with Fire Protection Consultant, Inc., in Pleasant Hill, California, reached way back to 1941 with “I Don’t Want [You] To Set the World on Fire,” a tweak of the classic by the Ink Spots.
Thanks to everyone who played along.
— Scott Sutherland
Research Foundation hosts symposium on fire and electrical safety
The Fire Protection Research Foundation will host a symposium on emerging issues in fire and electrical safety November 13–14 in Washington, D.C.
“The Next Five Years in Fire and Electrical Safety — Updating the Foundation’s Strategic Research Agenda” will review the Foundation’s progress on its current agenda and address its upcoming five-year plan. There will be more than 20 presentations covering key subject areas, including the changing urban landscape and the challenges it poses for fire and electrical safety, as well as fire safety of sustainable buildings.
For more information on the event and to register for the symposium, visit nfpa.org/foundation.
Fire safety student scholarship winners named
NFPA’s Fire Safety Educational Memorial Fund Committee recently awarded scholarships to four students who have exhibited academic excellence and interest in pursuing careers in rescue, fire and life safety, and engineering.
Catherine Hamel, a student at the University of Maryland, received the Arthur E. Cote Scholarship, which supports students pursuing a degree in fire protection engineering. Richard Emerley, a fire safety engineer student attending the University of Queensland in Australia, received the David B. Gratz Scholarship, which recognizes the growth of fire science and engineering programs.
Christine Pongratz, a student at the University of Maryland, received the John L. Jablonsky Scholarship for her interest in fire protection engineering, and Justin Beal, who attends Columbia Southern University, earned the George D. Miller Scholarship for pursuing a master’s degree in public administration.
For more information on the scholarships, visit nfpa.org/scholarships.
New app lets the Sparky the Fire Dog site go mobile
Now fans of Sparky can take him almost anywhere.
NFPA has released a mobile version of the popular Sparky the Fire Dog® website, sparky.org, which gives parents and educators another way to teach fire safety to children. The mobile version features kid-friendly short stories, comics, and an interactive section on fire trucks. The “App World” section of Sparky Mobile also features a free interactive storybook app for ages 3–7 and a free e-book for ages 7-10.
Access the mobile site through your smart phone or tablet or by going to sparky.org/mobile.
Remembering When conference slated for December
This year’s Remembering When: A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults conference will be held December 1–3 at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. NFPA will host representatives from up to 30 communities to attend the conference to learn how to reach older adults through group presentations and home visits.
This will be the first group trained on the updated version of Remembering When, which will be released in October. Fire departments are asked to partner with an agency whose main outreach to older adults is through home visits.
NFPA hosts the Rembering When conference annually as part of its ongoing effort to help reduce fires and falls among older adults. According to NFPA statistics, adults age 65 and older are twice as likely to be killed in a home fire compared to the general population, and falls are the leading cause of death from injuries to people in this age group.
Remembering When: A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults was developed by NFPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help older adults live safely at home for as long as possible. Together, NFPA and CDC created 16 key safety messages, eight for fire prevention and eight for fall prevention, to help educate and protect the most vulnerable of older adults.
For more information on Remembering When: A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults, visit nfpa.org/rememberingwhen.