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This post was originally posted on April 4, 2008.  The first week of April has turned deadly and the totals are 28 fire fatalities since the first of the month.  See the comments for additional information on the fatalities. 

Does it ever feel like we are fighting a loosing battle?  No matter how many times we spread the word on the need for good code changes, the need for working smoke alarms, the need to practice fire safety in your home, or the need for a home sprinkler system it seems we still have tragic losses around the United States.  This week we saw two tragic fires that have changed lives forever. 

The first occurred in Brockway Pennsylvania and claimed the lives of ten.  This early morning fire occurred in their home and the cause is still under investigation.  The second fire occurred in a manufactured home and killed the family of five from Ada Ohio.  A third fire occurred yesterday that took the lives of two fire fightersin Colerian Township as they fell through the floor while trying to battle the fire. 

These three fires have occurred in less then a week and killed 17 people and affected the lives of hundreds.  Are these three fires enough for us to become passionate about stopping this problem we have?  Who’s problem is it?

What can we do about these fires as code officials?  What can we do to save lives of fire fighters?  My answer is to continuously educate our communities and go beyond what we are used to doing.  We need every inspector check for smoke alarms when ever an inspection is performed (that means the plumbing, mechanical, building, and electrical must know where these devices shall be located).  We need inspectors to participate in the code change process and make sure our citizens are protected beyond the interest of builders and industry.  We need our government to support our causes as inspectors and help us protect our citizens.  We need our code officials to look toward using codes and standards to keep our communities safe at all costs.   

Lets create initiatives that will save lives in their home.  Residential sprinklers are a greatfire sprinklers save fire fighters source of solving our future fire problem.  It will not save the lives of those who live in homes without residential sprinklers.  There has to be a continued effort to save lives and to conduct home fire safety inspections.  We as a community must find ways to continually educate the public on smoke alarms, residential sprinklers, and home safety plans. 

What are you doing as an inspector to battle this problem?  What would you like to do?

ps.  Check your smoke alarms and practice your home escape plan right now.  Then tell one person to do the same.  Maybe we can save a life which may be yours. 

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Michael April 5, 2008, 7:11 pm

    Agh, I finished this article in the morning just to find another multi-fatility fire. This one occured in off campus housing at University of Wisconsin, Stout. So change the referenced title to 20 die in four fires in less then seven days.


  • wpadmin April 6, 2008, 9:46 pm

    Additional fires this week include:

    West Jefferson Ohio, Three Died

    Buffalo NY, Three Died in House Fire

    Utica Fire Kills Four

  • Arsnman4 April 7, 2008, 8:29 am

    Nice topic! (Sorry for the long post but here it goes)

    It’s very sad when any of us read or learn about events such as these. It always gives us a little more vigor to try to do more. We should really ask ourselves, what do we really do? It’s really not just about getting residential sprinklers in residential occupancies since anything I’ve been involved with and current proposals that have legs are for new construction and trade offs. These fires were in existing dwellings, which is one of the major argument points of the HBA.

    How many fire chiefs or code officials have sprinklers in their existing homes? Why not….. costs just like the public and HBA argues. I know I don’t, due to retrofitting costs despite newer technology and flex designs. Sure if we build a new home it’s a no brainier, we now know the real costs to do it regardless if it’s a Municipal, Rural or Well or Reservoir and Pump design. Just like most readers, we practice fire safety and have life safety devices like working and maintained detection and practiced plans in place. So we feel like we don’t really need them in our existing houses because we keep safety and planning in the forefront of our minds 24-7 right?

    Problems or programs that we can focus on in the future are:

    Legislation to allow for the enforcement of fire codes in existing single family or 1-2 family occupancies. (Yes, new homes get inspected during new construction but are left alone afterward unless communities develop pro-active campaigns like voluntary home inspection or self-inspection programs.) We spend our time inspecting facilities where life loss is historically lower, why is it lower? Existing legislation, inspection and continued improvement in code development.

    Public education programs for college students like Campus Watch has or assemblies for High School Seniors and Parents. (Include this topic in your general programs offered throughout the year)

    Keeping fire prevention flooded in the market. Our market is the public arena. (Recall Notices, Media Campaigns, Offer Fire Safety Education to Rental Housing Inspectors and Other Inspectors. You also have to be willing to assist them when they need it too! Loose the ego that it’s my job and I’m not safe if someone else knows how to do my job.)

    These are just a few of many things we can do. Be a “Doer” not a “Don’t”.

    It’s like I explain to our fire suppression personnel when they tell me “Since you joined this department, the fires are down and the all calls are down for structure fires.” I tell them that I want everyone to know my job and our job is to protect the public……right? That’s what we all said during our interview…..save lives and protect property and the public. There will always be fires despite our best efforts to minimize them. Let’s just do what we were hired to do and that’s… protect them where we can and keep the fires small and contained.

  • Arsnman4 April 8, 2008, 7:37 am

    Forgive the prior posting it must have been the server’s issue deleting improper material in the Forums. Here are more statistics that detail the problem:


  • Judy Fields April 11, 2008, 7:33 am

    In the preface of the International Residential Code, in the introduction setion, it states “The code is designed to safeguard the public health and safety in all communities, large and small”. The sprinkler system is a large part of safeguarding. Ask yourself what is the price of saving a life.

  • Arsnman4 April 11, 2008, 2:33 pm

    Judy Fields
    Says: “The sprinkler system is a large part of safeguarding. Ask yourself what is the price of saving a life.”

    I reply: Focusing on existing dwellings because that’s where the lives are being lost. Sprinklers in “new construction” after the effective date of the code “whenever” will help in 10 to 20 years after the adoptions. That’s when these homes become older homes and the light weight trusses, beams and walls allowed because of the many proposed trade offs might not collapse as soon as these older homes currently do because the materials have changed over the years causing higher heat release and flashover sooner.

    Again I ask, who uses the IRC or any other code to inspect our existing private dwellings?

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