Thursday, January 30, 2014

Powerful Kentucky fire leaves 5 dead, 4 missing

from nydailynews

Fire strikes family home in Greenville where 11 people live, officials said. Early morning blaze still not under control. Death toll could rise.

6 dead, 3 missing after Muhlenberg Co. KY house fire


A fatal fire ripped through this home in Greenville, where 11 people live, officials said. The fire has killed as many as five people and another four are reported missing.

An early morning inferno has ripped apart a Kentucky family — killing five members of one house and leaving another four missing.
The blaze broke out shortly after 2 a.m. near Doss Road in Greenville, demolishing the suburban abode, with the blaze still not completely under control as of Thursday morning.
Firefighters worked for hours to bring the blaze under control.


Firefighters worked for hours to bring the blaze under control.

Greenville Assistant Fire Chief Roger Chandler said that 11 people occupied the home. Two people were transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. for treatment.
Hospital spokeswoman Dagny Stuart confirmed that one adult and one child were brought in after the fire. She had no information their condition.
Kentucky State Police did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday morning.
The fire on Doss Rd. broke out shortly after 2 a.m., officials said. Two were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center for treatment.


The fire on Doss Rd. broke out shortly after 2 a.m., officials said. Two were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center for treatment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Automatic fire sprinklers a must


Re: Quebec death toll climbs, Jan. 28
Quebec death toll climbs, Jan. 28
That tragic fire in a seniors’ residence in L’Isle-Verte, a mostly unsprinklered building that led to many deaths, will renew the call to install sprinklers in nursing homes and retirement homes across the country. And rightfully so!
Properly installed and maintained automatic fire sprinklers can be critical life-saving devices. They do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with escape routes or emergency assistance. They go to work immediately to reduce the danger; they operate automatically in the area of fire origin, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm.
Automatic fire sprinklers keep fires small; the majority of fires in sprinklered buildings are handled by one or two sprinklers.
That said, fire sprinklers must be but one component of a strategy truly focused on prevention, education and protection to further reduce fire deaths, injuries and losses. This strategy must include ongoing public education and public awareness, smoke detectors, period inspections, fire codes and building codes that are enforced, and a strong commitment from municipal government to provide fire departments with the resources needed to do the job.
A multi-component strategy is needed. Are governments across this country up to this challenge?
Emile Therien, Ottawa
This fire was a horrible and preventable tragedy. Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews shows her ignorance and refusal to protect institutionalized elderly citizens when she made this dumb and irresponsible comment: “I cannot imagine having to deal with that situation [e.g. a seniors home fire] here in Ontario.”
She should start imagining these fires instead of making self-serving copout comments that fail to protect thousands of extremely vulnerable elderly people in public and private nursing and retirement homes. We also learn that most public nursing homes lack sprinklers; installing a province-wide sprinkler system won’t happen for another 11 years. This long delay is not only intolerable, but another weak, bureaucratic excuse of Matthews’ inability to find sufficient funding for nursing or long-term care homes.
It’s also another indication of Ontario government-sponsored elder abuse by neglect. How many more elderly citizens must die or become homeless in fires before Matthews and Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne act to protect many of the most vulnerable among us? Enough is enough!
Don Weitz, Toronto
Several things may have contributed to the disastrous Quebec senior nursing home fire. One is that there was only one overnight worker available at the three-story Residence du Havre to care for over 50 elderly high-maintenance patients when the fire started just after midnight, which indicates that it is woefully understaffed, particularly since many of the nursing home patients are over 80, many with serious ailments, and require walkers and wheelchairs to get around.
Also, the facility had an unsatisfactory sprinkler system, with sprinklers apparently only in the new part of the facility, and even if it had a proper evacuation plan, one facility worker isn’t going to be able to evacuate on his own over 50 people, especially ones so severely impaired, some deeply medicated. There were only volunteer firefighters available to put out the blaze with insufficient equipment.
It looks like the nursing home cut costs where they could at the expense of adequate safety to enhance profits.
Kenneth L. Zimmerman, Huntington Beach, CA

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Deadly Mid-City house fire: No smoke detectors found, officials say

from latimes

Mid-City fire
Investigators at the site of a house fire Tuesday in Mid-City that left a 36-year-old man dead. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / January 28, 2014)
A 36-year-old man who died Tuesday after a fire broke out in his Mid-City bedroom is the seventh person to be killed in a home fire so far this year in Los Angeles, officials said, and the latest to occur where no smoke detectors had been installed.
The fire Tuesday was first reported at 5:36 a.m. at 2305 South Orange Drive, said Katherine Main of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
It took 55 firefighters about 14 minutes to knock it down, she said.
Fire officials said the 36-year-old man, whose name has not been released, lived with his mother and aunt.
His mother woke up to the smell of smoke and called authorities, but when firefighters arrived there was no visible smoke or flames.
They entered the home and pulled the man from the front bedroom and took him to the front yard of a neighboring house, where he died.
Officials said the fire started in the man's room but how it began is unclear. He wasn't believed to be a smoker, but he used candles at times, authorities said.
The home lacked smoke detectors, officials said, adding that the man probably died because of smoke from a slow, smoldering fire.
It was the latest fire-related fatality in a location where authorities no smoke detectors were installed. Last week, a 61-year-old man died in a garage fire in Winnetka that had no smoke detectors. A week earlier, a family of four perished in a fire that broke out inside a Sylmar two-story converted barn-like structure.
Firefighters there were no smoke detectors installed, although an attorney for the property owner said they "were provided."
Officials said they are pondering whether to launch a campaign to remind residents to ensure smoke detectors are installed in their homes.
"We can talk and we can write so much, but people have to act," Los Angeles Fire Chief Stephen Ruda said Tuesday. "Maybe it's the apathy of the people: 'It won't happen to me.' ",0,3350321.story#ixzz2rjZE0buV

Monday, January 27, 2014

Funds will pay for fire sprinklers in homes elevated after Sandy


Published: January 27, 2014 6:34 PM

Long Beach residents Kevin Reilly and his wife
Photo credit: Newsday /J. Conrad Williams, Jr. | Long Beach residents Kevin Reilly and his wife Kristie at their homE. (Jan. 18, 2014)
Long Islanders who must add fire sprinklers when they elevate their storm-damaged homes can get federal funds to pay for the systems, which can cost $15,000 or more for a typical house.
NY Rising, the temporary state agency that distributes Sandy aid, said last week it would make the money available to victims of the superstorm who are installing sprinklers. The agency expects 500 to 1,000 homeowners will need sprinklers.
All "reasonable" costs will be paid, including patching up walls and ceilings, as long as workers are qualified, a spokeswoman said.

Kevin Reilly, a Long Beach resident who plans to elevate his home, said he was relieved to hear that NY Rising intends to pay for sprinklers.
If the agency really will fund the systems without conditions, he said, "then that's a home run for everybody."
NY Rising has been fielding inquiries from homeowners, contractors and media in recent weeks about whether it would pay for sprinklers. The inquiries came after New York issued a Dec. 19 bulletin to local code officials, informing them that some elevated homes require sprinklers.
Three-story homes pose more fire hazards than two-story structures, with three levels full of materials that could catch fire and with more stairs for occupants and firefighters to navigate, state code officials wrote in the Dec. 19 bulletin.
The mandate came as a shock to some homeowners hit hard by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm, who say they are already struggling to pay for repairs.
Homeowners and contractors have been "up in arms" about facing yet another cost, said Ben Jackson, a Freeport-based contractor. "My concern was that it was putting undue burden on people," he said. If NY Rising is "going to pay for it, I'm sure people are going to be interested."
New York's sprinkler requirement kicks in when a two-story home gets elevated, if the new ground-floor level is enclosed and stands at least 6 feet high, according to last month's 10-page technical bulletin. The lowest level's height is measured from the ground to the next floor up.
Local officials are responsible for enforcing the rules, which apply regardless of whether a homeowner has already gotten a permit or started construction, said a spokesman for New York's Department of State, which oversees building codes.
For more than a decade, New York has required sprinkler systems in new three-story homes. However, in the aftermath of Sandy, local building officials reached different conclusions about whether two-story homes that get elevated would need sprinklers.
In Long Beach, building Commissioner Scott Kemins said that before last month he did not compel homeowners to add sprinklers when they elevated homes, but the Dec. 19 bulletin made it clear the systems are required.
In the Village of Babylon, Lauren Norinder said her family recently learned they would need to add sprinklers to the modular home they hope to build on their property. The home would include two stories of living space above an enclosure.
She said she was relieved to hear the sprinklers would be paid for, though she said she still has concerns about how they would look and whether they might malfunction.
"I'd want to learn a little more about them before I commit to that," she said. "I just want to make sure, have all my fears put to rest."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Christie Blatchford: Deadly seniors home fire was as predictable as it was terrible


 |  | Last Updated: Jan 24 9:52 AM ET
More from Christie Blatchford
Canadian firefighters douse the burnt remains of a retirement home in L'Isle-Verte on Jan. 23, 2014.
Remi Senechal/AFP/Getty ImagesCanadian firefighters douse the burnt remains of a retirement home in L'Isle-Verte on Jan. 23, 2014.
As surely as dusk follows dawn, that’s how predictable was the terrible killer fire that destroyed La Residence du Havre in the village of L’Isle-Verte, just east of Riviere-du-Loup, and an unknown number of its frail and elderly residents.

Christie Blatchford: Ontario to finally require care homes to install sprinklers

(May 5, 2013) Ontario is poised to become the first province in Canada to make automatic sprinklers mandatory in all retirement and nursing homes and residences for the disabled.
That encompasses an estimated 4,300 “care facilities,” as they are collectively termed, that don’t have sprinkler systems.
These residences are older, built before the province made sprinklers mandatory in new retirement homes and more recently, mandatory in all new residential construction taller than three storeys.
The coming changes will force older care homes to retroactively install sprinklers, making Ontario the first province to do so.
Five people were confirmed dead, but as many as 30 residents remained unaccounted for and are considered missing, so the number of fatalities will rise.
The blaze broke out in the wee hours, about 12:30 a.m. Thursday; but of course it did. Fires at such places, whatever the preferred term — “care occupancies,” “vulnerable occupancies,” “private seniors’ residences of residential occupancy type,” “residences pour aines” as the French has it — don’t always happen at night, but often it seems they do, and it’s in these hours that they are at their most devastating.
And why is that?
It’s because that’s when such homes have the fewest staff on, that’s why.
If it wasn’t so completely tragic, it would be comic.
It’s as though the gods, in a particularly cruel moment, determined how best to go about killing the old and ill.
First, build buildings out of what firefighters call “combustible” materials, like wood. Then regulate the hell out of the industry with such a myriad of forms and paperwork that the regulation manages to be inept. (There’s a Byzantine patchwork of rules, building and fire codes and standards across the country, with a national code that appears to be implemented differently by different provinces and, of course, amended “in order to take into account the distinctiveness of the province of Quebec” as the Quebec building code notes.) This should ensure that nothing — oversight, regulation, enforcement — works very well. Allow for the fewest staff to be working during the most vulnerable times.
And, oh yes, never mind about automatic sprinklers, because, as the National Fire Protection Association in the United States says unequivocally, “NFPA has no record of a fire killing more than two people in a completely sprinklered public assembly, educational, institutional or residential building…” The gods don’t want that; can’t have something that just puts out fires on the spot, in the very place where they start.
And if there remain plenty of unanswered questions about the L’Isle-Verte fire, from Quebec government documents available online, some facts are known.
Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian PressA crane knocks down a wall after a fatal fire destroyed a seniors residence in L'Isle-Verte, Que., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.
La Residence du Havre had a capacity of 60 residents and at the time of its last certification in June of 2011, 52 people were living there, the majority of them — 37 — over the age of 85.
Sample schedules in the documents showed there were eight staff slated to be on during the day, three in the evenings and two at night.
Opened in 1997, the residence had a security call bell system; it was three storeys; it was made of combustible material (wood); it had one elevator; water temperature in the taps in the bathrooms was controlled; the units had smoke detectors — and the building was only partially sprinklered, a term that usually translates to there being sprinklers in common areas, but in this case, may have reflected a newer addition, which appeared to survive the blaze intact.
The facility was apparently well-regarded locally, considered one of the nicest places in the area. Pictures from its website show a modern-looking complex, with balconies overlooking lawns with garden statues, benches and swings and jolly-seeming residents everywhere.
A closer examination of the pictures, or the online promotional video, also shows many people in wheelchairs and others with walkers at hand. A local man who arrived quickly at the fire scene, trying in vain to rescue his aged mother, told reporters she was blind. A L’Isle-Verte town official, Ginette Caron, told The Canadian Press most of the residents had limited movement; only five, she said, were fully “autonomous.” Some had Alzheimer’s.

So, while it is in the detail yet to come that the ghastly story of L’Isle-Verte will be told, the bigger picture is crystal clear.
The elderly in these homes are sitting ducks in a fire. The regulatory system is a mess. The lessons are well known. Canada has a long and well-documented history of fatal fires in nursing and seniors’ homes. In Ontario, coroner’s juries began calling for mandatory sprinklers more than three decades ago. Quebec has her own rich history of fires, eight since 1985 in the Montreal area alone.
One, at the Villa Ste. Genevieve on the West Island on Aug. 31, 1996, killed eight people. Stunningly, that fire started in daylight, when there were eight staff on taking care of 41 residents; it should have been a lucky break.
Frances Drouin/The Canadian Press
Frances Drouin/The Canadian PressFire engulfs a seniors residence in L'Isle-Verte, Que., early Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.
Alas, as emerged later at the inquest, not only were there no sprinklers in the home, but also that staff hadn’t conducted fire drills — you know, for fear of traumatizing the old people in their wheelchairs. Presumably, no one had pointed out to staff that the drills were for them, so that they would know what to do. At that fire, when firefighters arrived, no one could even tell them how many residents were left in the building.
The NFPA sent an investigator to have a look at the Ste. Genevieve fire; his 43-page report is a revolting indictment of what happened at that home.
In the U.S., that nation to which Canadians love feeling superior, all federal care homes are now required to have automatic sprinklers.
In Canada, only Ontario has comparable rules. Premier Kathleen Wynne and Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur, to their great credit, last year made sprinklers mandatory in the vast majority of retirement and nursing homes in the province — even the older facilities — by Jan. 1, 2019.
As well, the changes require fire departments to maintain a registry of such “vulnerable occupancies” in their area, and require fire departments to conduct annual inspections that must include, imagine that, a fire drill.
It’s not merely time for Ottawa to force national standards of the same ilk upon the other provinces; we’re in overtime.