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Watch the Station Night Club Video, Till You Understand It

Are Fire Marshal’s Domestic Terrorists

This is a special post courtesy of Dave Statter from Statter911.com.

My local fire department has been taking a beating over the last month all across the country. Its crazed fire marshals are accused of tyranny, power-tripping, and being domestic terrorists. And those are some of the nice comments.

So what awful thing did the FMs from the Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue Department do?

They did their jobs.

If you are not aware, on July 24th the fire marshals arrested two bartenders they caught in the act of lighting a bottle containing a flammable liquid and a wick. The bartenders are accused of then using what some might call a Molotov cocktail as a source of ignition for their fire breathing demonstration. It’s a trick they’ve apparently done for years at Jimmy’s in Herndon.

I say good job by the fire marshals.

A crowded bar is not the place for anyone to play with fire.

There are many videos on YouTube showing off similar skills of ”talented” bartenders from the United States and around the world. In June I posted one to go with a story of a bartender in New York’s Chinatown who was arrested after his flaming bar tricks showed up on “The Real Housewives of New York”. In fact, one of the videos I found was from a big city bar I am familiar with. I sent the link to that city’s fire chief, who forwarded it to his fire marshal, who I am told is now a regular visitor to the bar.

So, I am glad my tax dollars were put to good use in Herndon that night. But I am apparently in the minority. Most who have written about this believe the arrests are another example of the “nanny-state”.

The owner of the bar seems to be quite politically connected. Some of our local leaders are now looking closely at the work of the fire marshals. Everyone seems outraged the bartenders were charged with felonies that could result in 45-years in prison.

Once again, I say good. From what I see there are too many bartenders playing these little fire games for their customers. Even if convicted, I am sure these guys weren’t going to jail, but an example needs to be set.

The local prosecutor pretty quickly dropped the felony charges, but the outrage over the actions of the fire marshals continues. The latest to give us his views is the man who represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the Libertarian Party nominee for President in 2008, Bob Barr.

Bob Barr thinks the person who originally tipped the fire marshals to the bartenders’ antics is a “busy-body”. Well Bob, then I guess I am also a “busy-body”. Not only did I rat out a bar doing similar stupid bartender tricks, I have called fire departments on locked exit doors at public facilities and even brought the fire marshal of the Nation’s Capital to a grossly overcrowded restaurant at the very moment Barack Obama was being sworn in. (Before the words “So help me God” were spoken Chief Gary Palmer, another “domestic terrorist”, had the restaurant cleared, doors unlocked and the manager’s head swimming.)

Mr. Barr, would I have been a “busy-body” if, at around 10:00 PM on February 20, 2003 I had been a customer in The Station nightclub, noticed the band Great White setting up their pyrotechnics and called in the West Warwick, Rhode Island authorities?

I am sure a person with views similar to yours would have looked at me as a party-pooper or being, as you call it, ”freedom unfriendly”. If someone at The Station had been able to make such a call that night I am certain there would have been some other unpopular fire marshals. There also would have been 100 lives saved.

By the way, here’s the video from The Station I would like you to watch. After a few viewings let me know what you think about open flames in a nightclub or bar. Maybe we could set you up to talk to some of the relatives of the people whose faces you will see about your definition of “freedom”.

Mr. Barr, you accuse Fairfax County officials of wanting to “arrest as many average, law-abiding citizens as possible in order to ensure as little fun as possible”. I’m sorry, but I just don’t look at playing with fire like this as ”fun”. I see it as a potentially lethal activity. I also see my local fire marshals as heroes for trying to put a stop to it.

Dave Statter spent 38 years in broadcasting in the Washington, DC area before retiring in June of 2010. In his youth he had been a volunteer firefighter, fire department dispatcher and a cardiac rescue technician in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  You can view the original story on Statter911.com

{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Nick Markowitz Jr September 9, 2010, 7:51 am

    The Bar tenders should have known better but the FM acted egregiously in how he handled
    this. A stern warning in writing would have been sufficient to stop this activity.

    • Gerald Hollowell November 10, 2010, 2:27 pm

      i believe the people of our time take luxury over safety in a heartbeat. That alone sends negative messages to the youth of tomorrow. But, i do agree. Those bartenders shouldn’t have gotten more than a slap on the wrist.

  • Robert Beach September 9, 2010, 9:40 pm

    I say hats off to the FM’s for doing their jobs, in reality alot of times a stern written warning doesn’t cut it, make the bartenders watch the Station Nightclub video, them maybe common sense will set in, if i am sitting in an establishment and witness this, I will sure as heck be calling the local FM’s this practice is stupid and endangers alot of people for what a few ahhhhs and ohhhhs, it is worth it?, well when the local FD starts pulling out charred bodies then I guess that is when to ask the question to the fools

  • Thomas "Dale" Fahrney September 10, 2010, 7:25 am

    Nick: If I had a penny for every “letter” of “warning” I sent that was completely ignored I’d be a “rich” man… That being said people of this industry respond to one thing and one thing only. Criminal Charges, These gentlemen put the lives of every patron in these bars in jeopardy by their actions. When a bartender puts the lives of others in his/her hands they need to understand the depth of their decisions. I’d be willing to bet that the gentlemen that owned “The Station Nightclub” wish they could take that night back.

    Dale

  • Fire Marshal Jeff Allen September 10, 2010, 7:36 am

    There is NO room for this kind of activity. Anyone who defends this type of behavior should be guilty themselves of being an accessory. All it would take is a fire with one or more fatalities and everyone would be asking ‘where was the Fire Marshal’. Just because it’s not against the law in this country to be grossly stupid doesn’t mean we need to make excuses for it. Come in to my jurisdiction and try some of this stuff; we’ll see what will happen. I will do whatever I can legally, morally and ethically to prevent people from dying as a result of a fire and life safety issue. We should all be thinking along the same lines. Anything less is unacceptable and probably criminal.

  • Mark Stigers September 10, 2010, 8:52 am

    As a former fire marshal and with the strong conviction to save lives and property from the dangers of fire in my community, I say great job! There are many circumstances when and where something like the bartender trick is not acceptable but arresting them may be a little over the top. For all we know they were warned before the arrest and continued to do the trick and the arrest was the way to end the show.
    The job of the fire marshal is not always a popular one, but cudos to those who do the right thing regardless of the political or public opinion. If something had gone wrong the fire marshal would be blamed for not acting.
    Great Job folks, keep up the good work!

    • Gerald Hollowell November 10, 2010, 2:34 pm

      I agree also. I say why the bartenders get in trouble? How about the owners? They are the ones responsible for allowing such acts right? Not every place of business can have fire marshals present to watch over everyone and everything. Way to go Dave!

  • Arsnman4 September 10, 2010, 8:59 am

    I would agree that the citations were well deserved and the practice demonstrated by these misguided participants, owners and favorable on-lookers is extremely hazardous. Without knowing the legislative directives for open flames in this jurisdiction or the history of previous knowledge, warnings or deficiencies in this establishment, I believe the proper message was delivered. I would hope that the official used tact while issuing the deficiency notice and order to halt the hazardous event. If so, the successful obligation was met by the official and it’s up to the suites, and legal system for criminal, misdemeanor or civil violation status based on their established laws and potentials to plead.

    The official(s) involved should only be concerned that he/she took action, recognized the hazard, served notice and delivered the message. They should take the criticism in stride since we should all have thick skin in this line of work. It’s not glorious by any stretch and we should all know that serving notice and issuing stop work orders will be met with complaints and political pressures at times, it goes with the job. We don’t have to like it or agree with it, just accept the fact that it exists. In this event it appears a potential tragic event may have been averted and that’s our job.

  • Gregg Kadow September 10, 2010, 9:23 am

    Nick, I most respectfully disagree. I stern warning is not the answer. They needed to be cited. Although I think the felony charge is a little steep a written warning in this instance has no teeth and they would continue the practice. If someone would get injured or worse yet a fire starts, the fire inspector would be called on the carpet becuase he did not stop the practice. Unfortunately, many public officials do not have fire safety as any type of priority and it is the fire inspector that must take it seriously regardless of pressure from the officials or the public.

    • Gerald Hollowell November 10, 2010, 2:47 pm

      i agree to disagree Gregg. Yes, these bartenders performed tricks to bring in money. Who never wanted to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail? The FM was perfect on his judgment on cited the bar, but his aim was off. He should have cited and penalized the bar owners, and push for strict regulations against such acts. The only other way to avoid this for owners would have customers sign waivers at the door. If something like that were to occur, i am more than positive that customers will flock to new, more safe venues.

  • Brian Batten September 13, 2010, 9:10 am

    All to often stern warnings and correction orders do not sway bar owners to stop those activities that place the public at risk. From flammable decorations, blocked exits, overcrowding and theatrical tricks, owners will claim ignorance or just ignore the Fire Marshal. Profits drive their choices and if no one is watching, code violations arise quickly. The Fire Marshal in this case should be commended. The fire code is a minimum standard and should be embraced by owners, not ignored.

    • Gerald Hollowell November 10, 2010, 2:52 pm

      Well said Brian! FM and the AHJ should step up to the laws and be exactly what the are, marshals. They should take charge and push for and enforce tighter laws. Remember White Snake, in a small bar out east and the pyrotechnics failed? Panic happened and many people were trapped! Things like this should not occur.

  • Richard D. Hahn, Senior Fire Marshal September 13, 2010, 4:16 pm

    THis is my response that I posted for Bob Barr:

    Mr. Barr,

    My question to you is how many people lost their lives because of the actions of the Fire Marshals that evening? The answer obviously is ZERO, which is a great thing. But how many may have lost their lives if the stunt of the bar tenders went wrong?

    Do you think for a second anyone thought that there would be a fire that night at The Station Night Club in Rhode Island? I do not think they did, but there was one and we all know the results of same.

    You see most of us in the Fire Protection field take our jobs very seriously and the worst thing that can happen is a fatal fire that could have been prevented. The problem with our job, like most enforcement jobs is that when you do the job right and there are no fires, people do not see this. Which is okay with me. I would much rather do my job and possibly because of that there is no fire and no one gets hurt or worse then no do my job or possibly miss something and there is a fire.

    I tip my hat to both of those Fire Marshals for very possibly saving lives.

  • Nick Markowitz Jr September 25, 2010, 7:39 pm

    I read several articles on this. Bar owners say they where not previously warned or notified.
    There claim.
    If this was the case then it was over the top with the arrests.
    The law is the law But the AHJ in the town has now put a big bulls eye on his back,with the public because the public does not see both sides of the story.Only the victims and the AHJ where acting like storm troopers.
    No AHJ are not suppose to be nice guys but they are suppose to serve the greater good of the public, and the public is who signs there pay check.
    What the public saw here was an overbearing Lord and Police action.
    It would have been better to shut the place down for the night and cite the bartender and owner if they where not complying and put out a press release why the establishment was shut down. Like the Liquor Control Board does in my state. A notice as well is posted on the door for everyone to read. The message would have been received and communicated between the establishments.
    Instead they arrested the bartenders made a public spectacle out of it and are now the bad guys in the public’s eyes.Because they where so overbearing.
    I feel bad for the AHJ they have a very hard job to do but they made it even harder with there actions. Whats the old saying you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
    Had they taken the above approach this would never had made national news head lines.
    The iron fist in the velvet glove is a very effective tactic when applied properly.
    It gets a lot more respect from people because you are respecting them jerks they may be.
    you will get respect back.

  • Nick Markowitz Jr September 25, 2010, 8:06 pm

    I forgot to also mention When it comes To AHJ, FM’s , The Fire and Medical services
    I do not like seeing this whole paramilitary look many people are going for with the BDU pants and boots and everything else.
    We are not the Military . Our dress when we dress military style is giving many in the public
    a very good reason to hate us and even take a shot at us. For we are seen as the enemy occupier in there eyes.
    There are some very clear amendments in our constitution and rules such as Posse Commitatus which people take to heart and in fact went overseas and died for our rights to not have troops stationed in our homes etc etc. and be under military rule except in the most extreme of circumstances.
    Fireman and Medics should never dress or look like the police we are a separate and distinct public service
    The Local FM and I where talking about this the other day.
    He was in Paramilitary type pants and Blue t shirt with town ship initials on back etc. when he went in a store and was very coldly treated by the owners/clerks Vs when he went in in his fire service uniform.
    He has decided to not wear para military type garb since when dealing with the public.

    Does any one else have an opinion on this agree or disagree?

    • Severo November 4, 2010, 12:02 pm

      I agree with your opinion on the dress attire concerning personnel who conduct fire inspections. I recently retired from a previous fire department as the Assistant Fire Marshal. I am now the Fire Chief in a nearby city. As a certified Fire Inspector, Arson Investigator & Peace Officer, we were authorized to carry a duty weapon. My dress attire was formal wear and not a fire service or para-military type uniform. I would cover my duty weapon with a blazer and/or coat. When needed, I would wear a light-weight windbreaker with the fire dept logo on the front and the word “Police” on the back side. This attire was less “menacing” and still provided the authoritative figure look. Aggressive enforcement produces negative compliance. I always believed that preventive measures with regular inspections/re-inspections and assertive enforcement of the codes led to a better understanding of the FM office among the nightclub/bar owners. Negative plubicity of the establishment (code compliance violations) was another method that was utilized and was successful in getting an establishment to comply.

      • Gerald Hollowell November 10, 2010, 3:00 pm

        I personally think the government is trying to make even fire and rescue services militarized for a massive event for precautionary measure, like the title of lord and knight back in mid-evil times. That way there will always be someone trained in every little group. Survival exists in our human nature.

  • Brian Batten October 7, 2010, 9:33 pm

    The Fire Marshal in this case did exactly what is required of him by law. Stop an imminently dangerous activity that could lead to property damage and the loss of life. As far as the believe that the FM should not be in uniform, I find that the unifrom is what sets us aside from any other inspector. It is military looking, thats becasue we a para-military organization. The business owners I have encountered immediately recognize who I am and have respect for the authority and expertice I hold. In the seven years I have been the FM I have only had to issue 18 citations. When dressed in plain clothes, I am not immediately recognized as the Fire Marshal and my authority can then be questioned. Sorry, NIck but I must respectfully disagree with you on both accounts.

  • Tim October 20, 2010, 1:37 pm

    Here is another one that makes me ask why we let this go on in restaurants. Greek (Flaming Cheese). Why we allow this flammable liquor (Greek Brandy) to ignite over customers and children is beyond understanding. It must be extremely hot when the waiters have arm protection, I’ve felt the heat two booths over. “ Opa until someone get hurt”. Thoughts?????

  • Thomas "Dale" Fahrney November 5, 2010, 10:30 am

    Nick: I will tell you this, and this is from experience. it really does not matter what you wear it matters how you handle yourself professionally. If I were doing any type of enforcement action then I would want to be in Uniform just as a precaution but most if not all of my business owners see me and recognize me long before I see them no matter what I am wearing. I get treated the same regardless of what I am wearing because I treat them as my customer and genuinely care if they succeed or fail at what they are doing.

    When we as fire marshals, inspectors forget that education is our primary jobs and that we need to think about each person we come in contact with are our customers and put ourselves in their shoes WE WILL FAIL not only ourselves but our communities.

    Our businesses should be glad to see us and not afraid of us…

    Dale Fahrney

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