Friday, June 29, 2012

State & National Legislators Witness Dramatic Displays of Fire Protection at Illinois Fire Service "Home Day"

ORLAND PARK, Ill., June 28, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In mid-June, over 100 leaders of the Illinois fire service converged upon Wheeling, Illinois, for Illinois Fire Service Home Day, an annual fire service event that showcases emergency response equipment and fire protection efforts. Hosted by the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association of Illinois at the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System(MABAS) Readiness Center, the event included educational presentations and demonstrations that created a forum for fire service leaders to bring fire and emergency service issues front and center with state and national legislators and staffers.
Among the many legislators attending as observers was U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), who is a member of the Congressional Fire Caucus and was also featured as a keynote speaker. Others in attendance included State Representatives Sidney Mathias (R-Arlington Heights), Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), Lisa Dugan (D-Bradley), Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine), and Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) and a staffer for U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL).
One of the national-level issues that were discussed with legislators was the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA). The FSIA addresses the nation's large stock of older multi-unit residential and commercial buildings that do not have fire sprinkler protection because they were built before fire sprinklers were required. The proposed legislation encourages building owners to invest in lifesaving safety upgrades through tax incentives, therefore, helping solve the fire safety problem by providing an opportunity for building owners to install fire sprinkler systems.
Speaking on a more local level, State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis discussed the Illinois fire service's drive to update the State's older edition of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code to the 2012 edition, which now requires fire sprinklers in one- and two- family homes, townhomes, nightclubs and other assemblies that have a higher occupant load level, and older high-rise buildings. The update will ensure that Illinois' buildings will be better protected from fires in the future, safeguarding the people of Illinois.
The nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) took the opportunity to educate the legislators about the importance of life-safety systems such as residential fire sprinklers by hosting live fire demonstrations inside the Illinois Fire Inspector Association's fire sprinkler trailer. The demonstrations each illustrated the dramatic, fast-moving action of fire as well as the quick response of fire sprinklers to knock down the fire, preventing it from spreading and eliminating the intense heat and toxic smoke. Fire sprinklers provide the additional escape time necessary for occupants to safely escape their homes.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 85% of fire deaths in 2010 occurred in the home. "It's important that our legislators are aware that fire sprinklers provide a proven solution to the residential fire problem and are backed by our State's fire service leaders," says NIFSAB Executive Director Tom Lia.
In fact, fire service leaders have helped seventy-eight municipalities and fire protection districts in Illinois pass fire sprinkler requirements in single-family homes through theadoption of national model codes from the International Code Council and NFPA. This year alone, four jurisdictions in Illinois have passed residential fire sprinkler requirements: Glencoe, Flossmoor, Manhattan Fire Protection District and Gurnee. Nationwide, residential fire sprinkler requirements are being adopted by local jurisdictions and even on the statewide level in California.
"Fire safety and fire codes truly need the attention of both national and local policymakers," adds Tom Lia. "We are grateful for the time that U.S. Representatives Roskam and numerous Illinois elected officials spent to research the equipment, materials and information at this fire service open house."
To download photography from the event, please visit: .
About the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory BoardThe Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting progressive legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and governmental policy makers by demonstrating the proven performance of fire sprinklers in saving both lives and property. For more info, visit .
SOURCE Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board
Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved 

State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover Narrates New Video to Help California Homeowners Understand Home Fire Sprinklers

FRANKFORT, Ill.June 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) introduces a new video narrated by State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover to educate California homeowners who are living in homes protected with fire sprinklers. The video, titled "Living With Home Fire Sprinklers in California" is a collaborative effort between HFSC andCAL FIRE - Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM). It teaches homeowners how fire sprinklers work, how to maintain them and it dispels common myths.
California adopted the 2009 International Residential Code that requires all new construction one- and two-family homes and townhomes built since January 2011 to be protected with a fire sprinkler system. Prior to adopting the state code, more than 160 municipalities adopted home fire sprinkler ordinances.  HFSC and the OSFM agree that a state-specific video about home fire sprinklers will be effective in educating the large number of homeowners who have never been exposed to home fire sprinklers and may not fully understand them.
According to HFSC and the OSFM, the biggest myths are that the entire system will activate at once or that smoke can activate a sprinkler. In the seven-minute video, Hoover clarifies that only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate from the heat of the fire, not smoke, keeping the fire from spreading and becoming deadly. Hoover also explains that a fire sprinkler system is basically maintenance free and demonstrates how to do a simple flow test. She also offers basic tips when living with sprinklers that include not hanging things from sprinklers and to avoid painting them. Viewers are reminded that they need to practice an escape plan and have working smoke alarms to warn them when there is smoke in the house.
As State Fire Marshal, Hoover makes it clear that she is proud of the level of protection fire sprinklers offer because they protect families living in the homes and firefighters who respond to house fires.
In addition to people living in homes protected with fire sprinklers, HFSC and the OSFM encourage members of the home building industry, real estate professionals and fire departments to view the video and share with those living with fire sprinklers.
The entire "Living With Home Fire Sprinklers in California" video can be found at: This educational video was produced through funding from Tyco Fire Protection Products and Advanced Automatic Sprinklers.
About Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC):
 The nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) is a national, 501(c)(3) charitable organization focused solely on educational outreach. It is the leading resource for independent, noncommercial information about residential fire sprinkler systems. Visit HFSC at   
SOURCE Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Developers oppose fire sprinklers in Iowa

The issue of weighing fire safety measures against affordable residential development has fire officials and builders at odds in Waukee and Johnston, where the city councils are reviewing and updating fire codes.
On one side are the fire chiefs who say that requiring sprinkler systems in townhouses is essential to keeping the residents safe. On the other is the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines and developers, who argue the systems are unnecessary and raise building costs, which ultimately come down on buyers.
The issue attracted statewide attention in late 2009 and early 2010, when the Iowa Legislature removed a portion of the state’s updated building code that would have required sprinklers in all single- and double-family houses — a measure that was a controversial part of the 2009 International Fire Code.
Growth in Waukee makes it the right time for the city to adopt the 2009 version of the International Fire Code, Fire Chief Clint Robinson said. The City Council passed the first two readings of the updated fire code.
The new code, if passed by the council, would require any townhouse development of 8,000 square feet or more to install a sprinkler system.
Johnston instituted the 8,000-square-foot requirement for townhomes in 2006. The city is also updating its building codes to include the 2009 international codes, and the homebuilders association hopes to see the requirement removed.
Requiring sprinklers for residential properties, including townhomes, has been endorsed by numerous firefighter trade groups, including the Iowa Association of Professional Fire Chiefs. The IAPFC has likened the systems to “silent guardians” that back up the protection offered by smoke detectors, which studies have shown are sometimes ineffective at waking up sleeping residents, especially children.
The safety provided by the sprinklers is especially important in townhouses, where greater numbers of people live closer together, Robinson said.
“If you live in a house, you control whether the candle gets put out, you control your house,” he said. “If you’re living in a townhome, there’s five other people that may not be blowing out their candles or have the gas can stored in the garage. The risk level goes up significantly because of the number of people that live in one structure.”
The position of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines is that sprinklers should remain a choice, said Creighton Cox, the group’s executive officer. When sprinkler systems are required, it can drive the cost of a townhouse up between $4,000 and $6,000, he said.
Cox has asked the Waukee and Johnston councils to amend the code so that townhouses have to install sprinklers only if there are more than eight townhouses in a row or if any of the structures has fewer than two exits, including doors and windows.

Waukee fire chief made concession

The proposed requirement for Waukee is a concession for Robinson. When the updated code first passed the council on June 4, it would have required any townhouse development of 6,000 square feet or more to install sprinklers.
After the first reading, Robinson said the department decided to adjust the requirement in an effort to come closer to a compromise with the homebuilders association and to mirror the proposal for single-family residences.
The updated code would also require any single-family house of 8,000 or more square feet to install fire sprinklers. That proposal has not drawn fire from developers, Robinson said, as they understand that in a bigger house, residents may be farther away from an exit in a fire.
The common thinking is that townhome residents are closer to exits. However, townhomes are often three stories high, with a garage on the bottom, a kitchen and living room on the second floor and sleeping quarters on the third floor, he said.
“It’s like an apartment, that you’re on the third floor,” he said. “You’re exponentially increasing your distance from where you’re sleeping to the point where you can get out.”
Apartment buildings in Waukee are already required to be sprinkled, he said.

Johnston already has stricter codes

The Johnston City Council took steps on June 18 to adopt the 2009 International Fire Code. The city’s code was last updated in 2006.
At the meeting, Fire Chief Jim Krohse highlighted a major concern many developers have had with the 2009 code: a requirement that all new residential properties, regardless of size, have a fire sprinkler system.
The city has no plans for that strict of a requirement, Krohse said.
“There are literally zero communities in the state that have gone down that road and I didn’t feel like going down that road either,” the chief said.
“The sprinkler requirements will remain status quo. We will make no changes to what was adopted in 2006.”
Cox, of the homebuilders group, used the public hearing to speak against Johnston’s sprinkler requirements for townhouses.
“It is out of line with the rest of the communities,” he said.
“Each of your neighbors does not have that with the exception of course of Grimes.”
In Urbandale, townhouses with 8,000 square feet must be sprinkled if there is only one exit. Townhouses in Johnston must be sprinkled when they reach up to 8,000 square feet.
Mayor Paula Dierenfeld asked the chief for his reaction to Cox’s comments.
“So effectively what would be proposed would be to weaken the current code we have in the city of Johnston,” Krohse said.
Councilman Matt Brown said the council would make a decision on the fire sprinkler issue after receiving Krohse’s opinion and reviewing what neighboring communities do.
“I don’t want to be inconsistent but I also want to do what’s best for us,” he said.
Adam Grubb with Jerry’s Homes thinks the requirement of sprinklers in townhomes adds about $6,000 to their cost.
“We try to build something that’s quality and energy efficient. It’s our opinion that it is not a demand of the consumer to have those in there,” he said.

Fire sprinklers wise move, officials say

Other metro-area fire officials say fire sprinklers are a wise move from a safety standpoint.
Between 2009 and 2012, the West Des Moines Fire Department advocated for the same language that would require townhomes of 8,000 square feet or more to have sprinklers, said Mike Whitsell, a fire marshal with the department. The measure ultimately did not pass the City Council, he said.
The city will most likely revisit the issue in 2015, when it begins talks about updating the 2012 edition of the codes, Whitsell said. Despite objections from homebuilders, it’s still a discussion worth having, he said.
While developers point to the firewalls that are built separating the townhomes, too often their effectiveness can be diminished by installing cable or utilities, he said.
“They put firewalls in those structures, but a lot of times those firewalls get compromised,” he said.
At the state level, Assistant State Fire Marshal Jeffrey Quigle says his department believes the systems save lives.
Building code policy relevant to the systems, however, is set at the local level, he said.
While he says he understands builders’ concerns, he expects that someday the systems will be regularly installed in developments.
“They do save lives. They will put out a fire quicker,” he said. “It’s going to take a few years before they really catch hold and sweep across the country. I think we’ll see that, I really do.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thousands evacuate Utah wildfire

A wildfire west of Utah Lake sends flames shooting into the sky Friday, June 22, 2012. Thousands of residents in northern Utah were evacuated after high winds kicked up a fire started by target shooters. (Salt Lake Tribune,AP Photo/Paul Fraughton)
(CBS/AP) SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah - Crews continue to battle a wildfire that has burned more than 4,000 acres in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs, forcing the evacuation of about 9,000 residents and endangering the area's power grid infrastructure.
The fire started near the Saratoga Springs landfill, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. High winds then helped fan the flames onto tinder-dry grasslands.
The fire, which was sparked by target shooters on Thursday afternoon, continues to threaten new homes as high winds push it across the hill.
The Dump Fire was 30 percent contained early Saturday, reports CBS Affiliate KUTV. Officials say the Dump Fire has provided some of the worst conditions they've seen in years.
No homes have been damaged, but the Salt Lake Tribune reports that some homes are located less than a mile from the flames - leaving them vulnerable to the blaze. One firefighter had suffered minor burns.
The fire was upgraded to a level 2 response from the state's emergency operation, which will bring in more technical expertise and more sophisticated air operations to assist in battling the blaze.
Ash continues to fall in the area, and winds are causing water to turn into mist before it can hit the flames.
Governor Herbert said Friday that there have already been 400 wildfires in Utah - 380 of which were human-caused. Bureau of Land Management officials said this is the 20th target-shooting related fire this year in Utah.
Herbert called on shooters to self-regulate, since legislation bars sheriffs from banning firearms.
Forecasters expect strong winds to persist through the weekend.
On Friday, fire officials were calling in additional aircraft and extra ground crews.
Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said he feared the fire could take down the area's power grid, shutting off electricity to up to 7,000 homes.
"Several power poles and transformers ... up and down the fire lines have burned," Tracy said Friday evening. "If the fire gets a couple more critical poles and drops that grid, wires down on the ground, it will black out this entire area."
A continued mix of hot, windy and extremely dry conditions has raised the fire danger across the West.


At a wildfire burning on more than 69,000 acres in northern Colorado, some homes were being evacuated Friday because of several spot fires started by winds outside the main fire. Some of those residents were evacuated after the fire flared up on Sunday and had only returned home Wednesday.
The mix of conditions that makes it easy for new fires to start and spread and cause existing fires to flare up is expected to last through Saturday there.
The fire west of Fort Collins has now destroyed at least 191 homes. It's also blamed for the death of a woman found dead at her ranch.
In southern Colorado, a new 300-acre fire near Mancos was threatening at least 10 structures and prompted officials to evacuate some homes east of town, federal officials said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper's office said he signed executive orders releasing $6.2 million more in state disaster money to fight the fire and two others.
The northern Colorado fire will have $5 million more available, on top of $20 million made available by a previous order. The fire has qualified for 75 percent federal reimbursement for firefighting costs, Hickenlooper's office said. A fire near Lake George will get $1 million, and the Stuart Hole fire in Larimer County will receive $200,000. The disaster money is coming partly from reserve funds.
Heat and low humidity is also a concern at the 1,150-acre wildfire burning near Lake George, which is 57 percent contained.
A fire burning for over a month near Pagosa Springs has grown by about 1,300 acres. Two ranches have been evacuated.


A wildfire that has charred nearly 12,000 acres of rugged terrain in northeast Nevada near the Utah line is 60 percent contained. It was started by a planned burn that escaped June 9.


Crews were preparing safety zones where firefighters can flee in case a wildfire that has scorched more than 4.5 square miles in Medicine Bow National Forest makes a run. It's 10 percent contained.

New Mexico

A fire that has destroyed 242 homes and businesses, the largest in state history, has blackened 463 square miles in the Gila Wilderness and is 80 percent contained.
Meanwhile, a 360-acre fire along the Rio Grande on the northern edge of Albuquerque was 50 percent contained. Nearby residents were on alert, but no one has been evacuated.


Officials battling a wildfire in eastern Arizona say they're prepared for high winds and low humidity. Firefighters have created containments lines around the community of Young and burned out fuel ahead of the fire. Crews are reinforcing those lines and patrolling for spot fires.
The Poco Fire is nearly 12,000 acres and 25 percent contained. More than 740 people and several helicopters are fighting the fire.


The largest wildfire of the season has scorched at least 5,200 acres on the Big Island.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Woman Killed in Fire Identified

UPDATE: Investigators are probing the cause of a residential fire near Ashby and Shattuck avenues that killed a 26-year-old woman, injured two, and did substantial damage to the interior.
A woman killed by an early morning blaze in a multi-unit Berkeley residence has been identified as Meredith Ann Joyce, 26.
It appears that Joyce lived in Oakland and that the home where the fire broke out is her boyfriend's, but that hasn't been confirmed,  a spokeswoman for the Alameda County coroner said.
Investigators today spent much of the day sifting through debris left by the two-alarm fire, but it could be days before they determine the cause.
Firefighters arrived at 2:36 a.m. to find heavy fire and smoke blowing out the back of the three-story Lorina Street home near Ashby and Shattuck avenues, Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said.
They managed to pull Joyce from the third floor attic area of the house, but she did not survive her injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. 
Two other people sustained non-critical injuries in the fire and were taken to Alta Bates Hospital by ambulance. One suffered smoke inhalation and the other sustained minor burns, Dong said.
Firefighters brought the blaze under control within about an hour. Eight people were inside the residence when the fire started, including the woman who died -- five residents and three visitors.
"It was pretty intense, and was out in an amazingly short time," said Mark Coplan, who lives to the immediate south of the structure. Neighbors worried that the flames would jump to a large adjacent tree, and spread from there, he said.
Losses have been pegged at a minimum of $600,000 to the property and $200,000 to its contents. The building was not a Victorian but was built in that era, with open-framing construction that allows fire to spread rapidly, Dong said.
"It is painstakingly tough" to analyze such copious amounts of debris, he said. Investigators "are being very diligent in the process."
Dong said it was unclear whether there were functioning smoke detectors in the home.
"Tragically, we lost a life in a fire," he said. "We try to remind people to check their smoke detectors."
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.