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With so much emphasis on the need for a qualified person in NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® many wonder why 110.2(A)(2) is a requirement. The title of NFPA 70E provides the answer. There is a potential for injury anytime an employee is interacting with electrical equipment, not just when they are working on electrical equipment. Examples of a person interacting with electrical equipment include a janitor opening a panel to turn on lights in the facility at the start of the day or a machine operator starting the equipment and performing his/her duties. Both must be trained in safety-related practices related to these tasks. Equipment must be under normal operating conditions before operating this equipment is considered to be “safe”. All employees should be trained to understand the normal operating conditions for the equipment they are interacting with. Without that understanding they could be put a risk of an electrical injury. Beyond that there are many general electrical safety topics that any employee should know.


Employees not required to be a qualified person by NFPA 70E must have the knowledge and skills necessary for their safety when interacting with electrical equipment. After understanding normal operating conditions for the equipment, the additional training is often common sense with regard to electrical safety. You may have employees using extension cords and portable equipment for example and they should trained in the use of such equipment. The following is a sampling of some basic, commonsense rules for avoiding electrical accidents and injuries that unqualified employees need to understand:

 

  • How to properly remove an attachment plug from a receptacle.
  • Never use damaged electrical equipment; damaged cables, cords, or connectors; or damaged receptacles.
  • Never reset a circuit breaker after an automatic trip but rather always notify a qualified person to determine the cause.
  • Be aware of the proper approach distance from overhead power lines.
  • Be aware of alerting techniques such as safety signs and tags, barricades, and warning attendants.
  • Never cross the arc-flash boundary.
  • Never cross the limited approach shock boundary unless advised and continuously escorted by a qualified person.
  • Never overload circuits, such as by running multiple appliances from a single outlet.
  • Never use electrical equipment if it is sparking, smoking, or otherwise appears to be malfunctioning.

 

You must determine the subject matter that your unqualified employees must know. In order to do so you must understand the duties they perform in the course of their day. Not all unqualified employees will need the same training and some employees may require a focused training program. Training will vary to deal with the specific equipment they interact with. There is nothing prohibiting comprehensive training for all employees. None of this training will make the employee qualified under NFPA 70E requirements but this training will affect electrical safety in your workplace.


For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.

This is the first blog in a three-part series
NFPA’s Massachusetts headquarters has been buzzing with excitement over the anticipated release of a groundbreaking new provisional standard. 
Slated for release May 1, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, provides a roadmap for first responders, medical professionals, community leaders, emergency management officials, facility managers, and the public as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from active shooter and other hostile events, which are unfortunately becoming more common in the United States. 
When NFPA 3000 technical committee members were at NFPA for their final meeting in late March, I had the opportunity to sit down with several of them for interviews as I prepared to write my upcoming feature article on NFPA 3000, which will appear in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal. The committee members’ stories, rooted in firsthand experiences with some of the county’s most horrific and well-known mass shootings, became the lens through which I told the story of NFPA 3000.  
Below is an excerpt from the section of my piece that discusses the preparation component of active shooter and
hostile events. 
Las Vegas officials knew the city, a global tourism hub, was a target for an incident like the October 1 shooting. But what they and NFPA 3000 committee members will also tell you is that these events can happen anywhere—even an idyllic New England town of 27,000 residents like Newtown, Connecticut. In 2012, a gunman killed 26 people inside the town’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Most of the victims were six- and seven-year-old children. 
“Newtown was the kind of place that you would never expect something like that to happen,” said Dr. Richard Kamin, a trauma physician at the University of Connecticut, who responded to the incident in an advisory role with law enforcement. “But as has been shown over and over again, the unpredictability of these active shooter events and a lot of the hostile events around the world [mean] we can no longer assume that, just because where we live seems to be one of these places where you wouldn’t expect it to happen, we can sit back and rest on the fact that it won’t happen.” … Kamin said he hopes NFPA 3000 will provide communities everywhere with that awareness and a sense of the need to be prepared. 
For all communities, a critical part of preparation is conducting a risk assessment, as outlined in NFPA 3000, to identify the locations in that area that are most at-risk for an active shooter or hostile event, and then making sure the people who are in charge of those locations, such as facility managers, are prepared. 
Watch for part two of this blog series, which comes out Thursday and will include an excerpt from the response section of my article.

Earlier this week it was revealed that a deadly fire at Trump Tower in Manhattan in early April was an accident and the cause of the fire was declared to be “multiple overloaded power strips”. Reports also found that there were no working smoke alarms in the apartment where the fire began. Even a well-known landmark building can’t escape basic fire safety practices. There is also information circulating about sprinklers in the building, retrofitting, etc. but in this post I will focus on the cause of the fire and its connection to the Fire Code.

wires plugged into power strip

 

A common code violation with regards to electrical safety provisions in NFPA 1, Fire Code, relates to power strips (referred to as power taps in the Code.)   Section 11.1 of NFPA 1 provides provisions for basic electrical safety.  Topics addressed in this section include relocatable power taps, mutiplug adapters, extension cords, temporary installations and building disconnect. The approval of new electrical installations or approval of modifications to an existing electrical system is a function typically performed by an electrical inspector or other building code enforcement official using the requirements of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®

 

In many cases, prior to a building or other facility being constructed or occupied, fire marshals or fire inspectors perform periodic inspections to ensure that the safety systems and features of the premises are in place, are in proper working order, and have not been compromised or adversely modified. However, like other provisions applicable in residences (for example: prohibition to store grills on a balcony) basic electrical safety requirements can be difficult to enforce.  Education and awareness is important for consumers to understand the impact of their actions. NFPA 1 can provide basic guidance to fire inspectors to assist with identifying proper and safe electrical installations.  

With regards to relocatable power taps (power strips), Section 11.1.4 of NFPA 1 states the following:

 

  • Relocatable power taps shall be listed to UL 1363, Standard for Relocatable Power Taps, or UL 1363A, Outline of Investigation for Special Purpose Relocatable Power Taps, where applicable. (11.1.4.1). **New to 2018, UL 1363 and UL 1363A were added as specific listing standards for relocatable power taps.**

 

  • The relocatable power taps shall be directly connected to a permanently installed receptacle. (11.1.4.2)

 

  • Relocatable power tap cords shall not extend through walls, ceilings, or floors; under doors or floor coverings; or be subject to environmental or physical damage. (11.1.4.3)

 

Power strips are commonly used for computers, printers, and other electronics at workstations, offices, and dormitories, residences, where additional electrical power receptacles are needed. During inspections, power taps that are plugged into other power taps (daisy-chained) should be removed, because such arrangement is prohibited. Relocatable power taps are for temporary use and should not take the place of permanently installed receptacles. In addition, power strips should not be connected to extension cords to extend their reach.  Ideally, where extension cords are used for other than temporary purposes, additional permanent receptacles should be installed to accommodate the power strips. 

 

Understanding basic electrical safety practices can be instrumental in preventing fires in residences, hotels, dormitories and offices, among other locations.  For additional information, check out NFPA's resources on electrical safety.

Thanks for reading, stay safe!

 

Do you have a topic you would like to see discussed during a future Fire Code Friday blog?  Comment below and let me know!

Little has been done from a regulatory standpoint to ensure that the kind of catastrophic disaster that rocked the town of West, Texas, five years ago doesn’t happen again.
That’s the assessment of at least one expert on the fifth anniversary of a fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer plant that killed 15 people and damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings. Damage was estimated at $250 million.
“The Environmental Protection Agency did amend its process of safety or risk management guidelines that would prevent explosions – [it] required a few more training sessions, and that sort of thing,” Thomas O. McGarity, a professor of administrative and environmental law at the University of Texas, told Texas Public Radio. “Really I think they did improve things somewhat, though they did not address the precise substance, which was ammonium nitrate, that blew up at the plant.”
Storage and protection of ammonium nitrate were key elements of a West, Texas, cover story in the March/April 2014 issue of NFPA Journal. The article detailed how a fire at the plant eventually heated stored (and unsprinklered) ammonium nitrate until it detonated, producing a colossal explosion that was heard 80 miles away and resulting in widespread damage and devastation in a town of fewer than 3,000 people. The article included reportage on the early efforts of Chris Connealy, the Texas state fire marshal, to raise awareness of hazards related to stored ammonium nitrate and to advocate for a state fire code in accordance with NFPA 1, Fire Code.
In response to the West Fertilizer explosion, the 2016 edition of NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code, included expanded requirements for the safe storage of ammonium nitrate. The changes were covered in a May/June 2015 feature article in NFPA Journal.
McGarity pointed out that President Obama issued an executive order following the West incident for agencies to review the conditions that could lead to similar explosions. The EPA responded with regulations that were set to take effect in 2017, but the agency put them on hold for reevaluation. “The Trump administration wants to pull back anything that the Obama administration did and see whether they can do it differently,” McGarity said. “It’s very difficult these days to write new regulations. There are so many impediments to getting a regulation through the process.”
Meanwhile, the nation contains tons of stored ammonium nitrate primed for regulation. In our 2014 story, the EPA estimated that 13,000 facilities similar to West Fertilizer posed threats to communities throughout the U.S.

At 5:12 AM on Wednesday, April 18, 1906 an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.9 hit San Francisco. The earthquake set off dozens of fires. There were “overturned stoves, scattered fuel from furnaces, and short-circuiting of powerful electric currents.” On top of this, “…all three sources of water supply [were devastated] simultaneously.” [i] Around 8:00 AM, an aftershock made things even worse. There were so many damaged to the city’s water system that they were without water to fight fires. In the end, 80% of the damage was due to fire, not tremors during the earthquake.[ii]

 

Photograph from the NFPA Research Library and Archives.[iii]

 

In the midst of mourning Fire Chief Dennis Sullivan—who died early in the morning from injuries caused by the earthquake—those in charge of the city’s emergency response team determined that dynamite was the solution to weakening the dozens of fires spreading throughout the city. Before his death, Chief Sullivan had been in the process of advocating for improved water supplies for fire-response as well as dynamite training for the San Francisco Fire Department. Knowing this, the two people who became leaders in the emergency response and relief team made the decision that only dynamite could create the fire break to contain the fires ravaging the city.


These two people were Brigadier General Frederick Funston, who was appointed to the Department of California by the War Department and immediately assigned himself as military governor of San Francisco within minutes of the earthquake, and a 69-year-old fireman named John Dougherty—who was only named the new Fire Chief due to seniority. In literature that analyzes their actions, it is debated whether their technique helped save the city or hurt it. On top of the dynamite, General Funston managed to acquire complete control over the Army troops he requested to protect the city, which led to the San Francisco Mayor publicly ordering the troops to shoot anyone caught looting on the spot (though there are no records of this ever happening).


In regards to the dynamite, Funston himself stated, “I doubt if anyone will ever know the amount of dynamite and gun cotton used in blowing up buildings, but it must have been tremendous, as there were times when the explosions were so continuous as to resemble a bombardment.” It was said that he was determined to stop the progression of the fire, even if “it meant blowing up the last houses to do so.”[iv] Because many of the troops, police officers, and firemen handling the dynamite were untrained in its use, the effects were not always helpful in stopping the fire. Some critics insist the dynamite fueled the fire instead of creating fire breaks to halt it. However, other researchers praise Funston’s fast-thinking actions for saving the parts of city that were, in the end, untouched by fire.


After three days of this, it was a heavy rain on Saturday morning that eventually extinguished the fires. This was and still is the largest urban fire in U.S. history. Over 3,000 people died, 28,000 buildings and 4.7 square miles were destroyed, 200,000 people were homeless (half of the city’s population), and there was a property loss of $524 million (which today is $13.8 billion).[v]


Referenced Sources:

  • [i] G. H. Marks, “Reminiscences and Lessons of the San Francisco Conflagration 18-21 April, 1906” (speech presented at Birmingham Insurance Institute, Birmingham, UK, 26 February 1909), published in The San Francisco Story…: April 18-21,1906! (Unknown Publication), 4. “San Francisco, California, San Francisco Earthquake, 18 April 1906,” Historic Fires Collection, NFPA Research Library and Archives
  • [ii] Charles Scawthorn, John Eidinger, and Anshel J. Schiff, “The 1906 San Francisco, California Earthquake and Fires,” published in Fire Following Earthquake (Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2005), 11.
  • [iii] “Dynamiting of the Phelan Building,” photograph. “San Francisco, California, San Francisco Earthquake, 18 April 1906,” Historic Fires Collection, NFPA Research Library and Archives.
  • [iv] Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts, The San Francisco Earthquake (New York: Stein and Day, 1971), 135.
  • [v] Scawthorn, et al., “The 1906 San Francisco, California Earthquake and Fires,” 10-11.Trever Hammond, “Major Earthquake Strikes San Francisco: April 18, 1906,” Fishwrap,1 April 2018, https://blog.newspapers.com/major-earthquake-strikes-san-francisco-april-18-1906/.

 

Written by Jenny DeRocher, Simmons College '18 MLIS Candidate.
 
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.


The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

Safety advocates know that fire sprinklers can significantly reduce the risk of death or property loss from a home fire. What might not be as well-known is the data supporting the environmental benefits of this technology in all new homes.


A study conducted by FM Global and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition underscored a sprinkler's green qualities. It investigated the types, quantity, and duration of air and water pollutants released from a home fire; the amount of water used by a firefighter's hose and fire sprinklers during a fire; and the environmental impact of burning furnishings and other materials.

 

The report, "The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers," concluded that:

  • greenhouse gases released by burning buildings can be reduced by 98 percent when automatic fire sprinklers are installed
  • automatic fire sprinklers reduce fire damage by up to 97 percent and reduce water usage to fight a home fire by upwards of 90 percent
  • fire sprinklers reduce the amount of water pollution released into the environment

    Visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site for more information on this study.
The 2018 edition of 70E is now available and NFPA developed a short five-part video series featuring NFPA technical experts, Chris Coache, senior electrical engineer, and Derek Vigstol, electrical technical lead, who explain some of the key changes. The topics discussed in the series include: 70E, worker safety
  • Article 110.1(H) – Risk Assessment Procedure
  • Article 120 – How to Establish an Electrically Safe Work Condition
  • Table 130.5(C) – Estimate of the Likelihood of Occurrence of an Arc Flash Incident
  • Table 130.5(G) – Selection of Arc-Rated Clothing Using Incident Energy Analysis Method
  • Standards for Personal Protective Equipment
Learn how these changes to the code reflect new technologies, knowledge and safety advancements in the industry, and how they relate to the job you do. If you missed any of the videos, find the full series online.
At NFPA our goal is to provide you with everything you need to take your electrical safety skills to the next level. This series and additional resources related to 70E including articles, a blog series, fact sheet, trainings, products and more, can be found at www.nfpa.org/70E.         
According to NFPA statistics from NFIRS, the five year average (2010 - 2014) for hot work caused fires is 4,440...that's more than 10 per day throughout the US. These fires are preventable as long as there is an awareness of the basic principles and safeguards that should be followed any time a hot work activity is planned and conducted. That's the approach Boston Fire Department took over 2 years ago in the aftermath of a tragic fire in the city that took the lives of two firefighters.
During my recent NFPA Live presentation along with Laura Moreno, Engineer and Staff Liaison for NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work we described the fundamental safe practices found in the standard and shared how the program initiated from this tragedy has now trained nearly 25,000. 
We received this follow-up question from a member. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.
NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!
Under a cold and hard-driving rain, about 30,000 determined runners gathered Monday morning in Hopkinton, Massachusetts at the start of the 122nd Boston Marathon. The race, held since 1897, is one of Boston’s most cherished events. It’s also the most logistically complicated day on the calendar for the area’s emergency agencies and first responders.
Despite Monday’s miserable conditions, including wind gusts of 25 mph and race-time temperatures in the 30s, race organizers and emergency agencies were prepared for as many as a million fans to line the mostly unsecured 26.2-mile course, which winds through eight Massachusetts towns before concluding in Boston’s Back Bay. Keeping an eye on things were thousands of uniformed and plain-clothed emergency personnel, including law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services, and a host of federal and state agencies. All worked for months on collaborative inter-agency tabletop exercises to hone their plans to be ready for whatever arose come Marathon Monday.
Many of the procedures in place were borne from the hard lessons learned in the aftermath of the Marathon’s worst day— Monday, April 15, 2013—when two domestic terrorists planted homemade bombs at the finish line, killing three people and wounding nearly 300 others. Despite the carnage, emergency professionals still marvel that more people weren’t killed in the blasts, and herald the response as extraordinary.
On this, the five-year anniversary of the bombing, I wanted to share with you a couple of NFPA Journal articles that highlight the amazing efforts of these responders as well as the work the city and state did in the event's aftermath to strengthen their Marathon preparedness.
Three years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kurt Schwartz, who in 2013 was the director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the agency that oversaw the state’s response to the bombings. He was near the finish line when the bombs went off, and was candid during our talk about what he felt and saw in those first few moments, as well as what went right and what didn't.
“I certainly suffered from tunnel vision, it was very hard to take a step back and have a broad view when you were seeing what you saw,” he told me. “The first person I encountered when I came onto Boylston Street was a person who had lost both of their legs. It’s hard to focus, I think we all had tunnel vision.”
The interview with Schwartz ran in the March/April 2015 issue of NFPA Journal. You can read it here.
Additionally, last May, NFPA Journal ran an article by Stephanie Schorow detailing what Boston has done to adapt its emergency procedures and planning for the marathon and other events since the 2013 bombing. The lessons learned were illuminating, and provide powerful insight for other communities hosting big events.
In addition to the feature, which also quoted Schwartz extensively, Schorow compiled a list of 10 takeaways from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, communicated to her by a number of emergency experts who were on the ground that day.
You can read her feature here, and the takeaways here.
Especially in this challenging weather, my hat is off to all of those determined runners, and of course also to all of the countless professionals out there keeping everything running smoothly.

This past march New England was hit with three Nor’easter storms in less than two weeks.  The storms left behind many downed trees and branches and extensive property damage.  When the surrounding streets look like this (below photo: Pembroke, MA), residents and towns are left with a massive cleanup and piles of brush and branches that require disposal.

 

storm damageIn Massachusetts, where permitted by the individual community, the season for open burning is Jan 1 through May 1, but this will vary state by state (historically, April is the busiest month for brush fires in Massachusetts, because of the increase in open burning and the need to clean up after winter).  Residents, or anyone, wishing to conduct an open burn should first contact their local fire department, regardless of location, to determine local requirements and restrictions for open burning in their town/state as provisions differ community by community.    

 

Per NFPA 1, permits are required to conduct open burning and should follow the provisions of Section 1.12 of the Code.  By requiring permits for certain activities, the AHJ can ensure that operations are performed in a safe manner.  Often times communities may limit the number of permits they issue so that the town can control the amount of burning that occurs as well as ensure they have adequate resources available should an emergency situation arise. 

 

Where the burning is conducted on public property or the property of someone other than the applicant, the applicant must be able to show that permission has been given by the appropriate agency, owner or authorized agent.  In addition, weather conditions or hours may restrict burning and the limits must be designated in the permit restrictions (check your local community for restrictions due to weather conditions or time restrictions where limited available firefighting services may be available, and never assume that burning is permitted).  

 

Once an open fire is approved and permitted a few additional steps should be taken to ensure the burn stays confined and is done safely:

  • (10.10.4.1) Fires shall be located not less than 50 ft (15 m) from any structure.  In the event that brands and embers are given off, or that the fire becomes out of control, the 50 ft (15 m) requirement provides some distance between the fire and the structures. Depending on conditions or local provisions, the AHJ can increase this distance to provide adequate protection.
  • (10.10.4.2) Burning hours are to be prescribed by the AHJ. The AHJ can determine the hours that burning is to take place.  Many jurisdictions permit burning hours during daylight hours and others only at night.  The fire department and the dispatch center should be kept informed of where burning is taking place, because they may receive calls from surrounding residents reporting smoke or flames in the area. 
  • (10.10.5.1, 10.10.5.2) Open fires must be constantly attended by a competent person until the fire is extinguishes and this person is required to have a garden hose connected to the water supply or other fire-extinguishing equipment readily available for use. The presence of a competent person who has access to readily available fire-extinguishing equipment and knowledge of how to use that equipment is important to maintaining a safe outdoor fire. Outdoor fires frequently burn out of control because no one is in attendance to notify the fire department and to take action to prevent fire spread. The AHJ should establish guidelines for safe burning and can require fire apparatus to be present where the situation warrants. 

 

What regulations do you or your jurisdiction enforce around outdoor fires and burning? Have you been involved in a situation where a permitted burn became out of control?  What have you seen gone wrong with open fires?

Ideas for future #FireCodefriday posts? 

 

Comment below and let me know what you would like to read about.  As always, thanks for reading.  Happy Friday and stay safe!

 

Which doors in healthcare facility must be inspected and tested in accordance with NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives? Which doors are required to be fire protection rated, and how are those ratings different from fire resistance ratings for walls?


If you’re a facility manager, safety officer, engineer, life safety supervisor, EHS manager, or construction manager of a healthcare facility, these questions reflect requirements in NFPA 80 that apply to your facilities. However, not everyone is well-versed in these provisions because compliance with the annual inspection requirements in NFPA 80 for healthcare facilities is relatively new. It was only a little over a year ago that the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) adopted the 2012 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, requiring U.S. healthcare facilities meet the fire door requirements in the 2010 edition of the standard.


To assist facility managers manage yearly testing and inspections of fire door assemblies, NFPA is holding a series of one-day trainings, which cover:


• typical door types encountered in a health care facility
• door locking means permitted
• eleven verification points required for the yearly inspection of swinging fire door assemblies
• the skills required to serve as the qualified person permitted to perform inspection and testing in accordance with NFPA 80

 

In the end, understanding the knowledge and skill-set required to perform fire door inspections and tests, as well as when to conduct a yearly inspection of fire door assemblies, will help ensure that your healthcare facility complies with NFPA 80 and is prepared for CMS audits.


Upcoming NFPA 80 trainings are scheduled, as follows:


• Skokie, IL – May 3
• Atlantic City, NJ – May 24
• Ft. Lauderdale, FL – June 28
• Quincy, MA – June 28
• San Francisco, CA – July 19
• Durham, NC – November 8
• Garden Grove, CA – December 13


Space is limited, so make sure to sign up as quickly as possible.

On this day in history 110 years ago, Chelsea, Massachusetts suffered a conflagration that destroyed half of the city and 12 million dollars of infrastructure, killed 19 people, and left 15,000-18,000 people homeless (sources vary). In the July 1908 NFPA Quarterly, three Inspectors from the Underwriters’ Bureau of New England frankly reported, “Students of fire protection engineering will find in the Chelsea fire little of scientific interest but municipal authorities might profit by the lessons it teaches.” The Inspectors felt this way because in their eyes, the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908 was entirely preventable.
General view of conflagration from the northwest at about 11.30 a.m.

The early 20th century industrial landscape can be hard to imagine. In the case of Chelsea in 1908, there was a “Rag District,” which was a cluster of textile mills, dealers, and collectors. This meant there were buildings that contained raw cotton, equipment that required fuel to produce textiles, and stifling air to top it off. Surrounding these buildings were literal rags, sitting in piles to be recycled for cloth and paper production. Often these rags were soiled with water and unknown chemicals. In the NFPA Quarterly, the Inspectors paint this scene with distaste:

“There were in this ‘rag district,’…about two hundred rag and junk collectors and dealers. There were probably at least fifty rag shops…In certain streets, nearly every shed, stable and yard contained rags. Vacant stretches of land were utilized for drying purposes, the rags being spread out all over the ground. Rags were even dried on lines in back yards. It seems as if little serious attempt was made to properly supervise these rag dealers…The consequence was that the district was a conflagration breeder of the worst kind.”
View in Marginal Street opposite Magee Furnace Co. showing smoke from oil plants.

In their report, the Inspectors also acknowledged that the fire would have been controlled hours earlier had the wind not been especially strong that day. The fire itself started sometime around 10:30 am in a junkyard, where some rag piles caught fire. However, the wind carried burning rags onto the roofs of nearby factories, which were engulfed within minutes. In recounting how the conflagration spread, the Inspectors wrote:

 

“[The fire] leaped whole blocks...The fire was beyond control…[it] extended so rapidly that many of the buildings in the residential section burned without any effort being made to save them…The shower of sparks, pieces of wood, parts of buildings and the contents, all blazing, were carried by the wind far ahead…setting fire wherever they struck.”  [NFPA Quarterly, vol. 2 no. 1]

In the afternoon, explosions rocked through a few oil plants, an oil barge, dozens of fuel tanks, and a sewage pumping station. By 6 pm, a stretch of land a mile and a half long and a half mile wide had been completely burned over (visit the NFPA Archives if you want to see a map). This left the city in ruins. In reporting the 1908 conflagration, the Inspectors emphasized on how little the City of Chelsea cared to change the dangers of their Rag District. It seems that even this destructive fire didn’t persuade them because another conflagration hit Chelsea in 1973 and this Second Great Chelsea Fire started two hundred yards away from the 1908 fire.

Written by Jenny DeRocher, Simmons College '18 MLIS Candidate.

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

The following two proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 1, Fire Code; and NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code, are being published for public review and comments:

 

  • NFPA 1, proposed TIA No. 1362, referencing 42.12 (new) of the 2018 edition, comment closing date: 6/14/2018
  • NFPA 400, proposed TIA No. 1361, referencing 3.3.13 Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (new), 11.1.1.2, and A.3.3.13 (new) of the 2016 and proposed 2019 editions, comment closing date: 5/17/201

 

Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the closing dates listed. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

 

After reviewing the entire record before it, the NFPA Standards Council voted today to cease standards development of NFPA 277, Standard Methods of Tests for Evaluating Fire and Ignition Resistance of Upholstered Furniture Using a Flaming Ignition Source. In making its decision, the Council concluded there is a fundamental lack of consensus on how to test and evaluate residential upholstered furniture flammability exposed to a flaming ignition source.


Burning upholstered furniture presents a significant fire issue that demands a solution to protect both citizens and first responders. Unfortunately, creating a test method to assist in addressing this part of the fire problem has proved quite challenging, and ultimately resulted in the Council’s decision.


In 2014, the Standards Council voted to approve the development of a new test method that was to evaluate fire/ignition resistance of upholstered residential furniture subject to a flaming ignition source. After extensive discussion and review of available information and data, the Technical Committee on Fire Tests decided to address the fire problem associated with residential upholstered furniture by measuring total and peak heat release after ignition and developing pass/fail criteria to reduce flashover. The draft document proposed by the Technical Committee for entry into revision reflects that proposed approach, which served as a change in direction from the original proposed scope.


However, numerous comments in opposition to the draft of NFPA 277 received by the Standards Council expressed stakeholder and industry concerns with the document’s scope; the pass/fail criteria; industry concerns; health and safety issues; the technical requirements of the test method; and fundamental aspects of the test method, including duplication of existing test methods.


Given this decision, we are faced with the same pressing question we started with: How can the persistent fire problem of residential upholstered furniture flammability be addressed in an effort to mitigate the nation’s home fire problem?

 

One clear path forward for addressing the U.S. home fire problem is the adoption and enforcement of requirements contained in the model building codes for the installation of home fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family construction. Fire sprinklers have been proven to dramatically reduce the likelihood of civilian fatalities, injuries and direct property damage. They also provide enormous health and safety benefits to firefighters by extinguishing fires or keeping them small and reducing exposure to toxic hazards.


I strongly encourage the individuals and organizations that weighed in to our process and expressed a desire to reduce the fire problem and to better protect the public and first responders from the devastating effects of fire, to remain vocal and engaged towards the solution that exists in home fire sprinklers. NFPA aggressively advocates for widespread installation of home fire sprinklers and needs others to do the same.


In addition, we firmly believe that the participants who raised concerns about the toxicity of flame retardant chemicals, including first responders, need answers to their concerns.


More information on home fire sprinklers can be found at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org.

The April 2018 issue of NFPA News, our free monthly codes and standards newsletter, is now available.

 

In this issue:

 

  • Standards development sessions at the Conference & Expo
  • Annual 2018 Motions Committee Report available
  • Proposed Tentative Interim Amendments seeking comments on NFPA 22, NFPA 30B, NFPA 70, NFPA 90A, and NFPA 400
  • New project being explored on Spaceports
  • Errata issued on NFPA 20, 30, 68, and 72
  • Committees seeking members
  • Committees seeking public input and public comment
  • Committee meetings calendar

 

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