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Fire Break JuneThe June issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll find:

An update on the Colorado wildfires and the resources NFPA provides to help communities create a safer place to live

  • Information about a handful of U.S. states that will most likely see significant wildfire activity this year
  • A link to a Journal article that highlights the work NFPA is doing with land use planners and developers regarding wildfire mitigation and safety
  • An update on our Backyards & Beyond conference including speakers, special presentations and information about Salt Lake City
  • A link to our newest FAC infographic that provides residents with a visual roadmap for creating safer, more fire adapted communities

… And lots more! We want to continue to share all of this great information with you so don’t miss an issue! Subscribe today. It’s free! Just click here to add your email address to our newsletter list.

UpStairs Lounge plaque
A plaque commemorating the UpStairs Lounge Fire

News reports have labeled it the "largest LGBT massacre in American history." Yet, the UpStairs Lounge Fire, which occurred 40 years ago this week, has largely remained one of the country's more forgotten incidents.

On June 24, 1973, the UpStairs Lounge, a popular gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, was filled with revelers from the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a pro-LGBT denomination. A patron that evening was asked to respond to the incessant doorbell ringing and was greeted by a kerosene-fueled fireball that made its way up the stairwell to the bar. Patrons, lacking a main exit, scrambled to safety; some attempted to squeeze through the window's metal bars while others slid down drain pipes or escaped through another exit leading to the building's theater. One of the more disturbing images from the incident is of MCC pastor, Rev. Bill Larson, who succumbed to the fire after witnesses heard him screaming "Oh, God. No!" Emergency responders and onlookers found his body stuck in the window's metal bars.

Thirty two people died in the incident deemed by media reports as the deadliest fire in New Orleans history. There were no convictions, though the likely culprit was a troublemaking patron who was booted from the bar the night of the fire. He committed suicide a year later.

At a time of heightened homophobia, many news outlets failed to mention that the majority of victims were gay. Moreover, some family members failed to claim the victims' bodies. A marker at the site of the fire--the building has been transformed into a restaurant and bar--now commemorates the tragedy.

"This tragedy has consumed my life since I found out about it two years ago," Misti Ates, a New Orleans LGBT advocate, told The Times-Picayune during a jazz funeral procession this week. "The people who died were someone's child, brother, father, or wife. It's not just a gay event. These are real people with real lives."

For more details on the fire, read NFPA's investigation report.

NFPA senior instructors Bob Caputo and Russ Leavitt are no strangers to surprises when they travel but on a recent trip to the Netherlands, both instructors were challenged with a new challenge; a barn fire.

NFPA regularly teams up with Tom Denooij from Marsh Risk Consulting to host training seminars in the Netherlands and across Europe. Tom's title is senior consultant for Marsh Risk Consulting but he is also a senior instructor for NFPA and was the driving force behind NFPA Eurocon 2012. Tom arranged a training week in Rotterdam starting on May 13, 2013 for NFPA 13, 20 & 25 with Caputo and Leavitt as instructors. On this particular trip, Denooij had a special surprise for Caputo and Leavitt. Wednesday evenings in Rotterdam, Denooij adds another title - Volunteer fire chief for his hometown station - PostMijnsheerenland /Westmaas. During this training week in May, 2013 Caputo and Leavitt were invited to don firefighting gear including breathing apparatus to respond to a fire at a nearby farmhouse. The 911 call came in saying there was a smoke in the barn and two of the home's occupants were probably still in the barn. The chief ordered his team to sweep the building for occupants with Leavit's group entering the building from the right and Caputo's group entering from the left. The two teams found the occupants and guided them to safety.

For Caputo and Leavitt, the exercise was a way to connect the material they teach to the actual experience of fighting a fire in Europe. A fire in the US is the same as everywhere else in the world but to understand how different constituents deal with fire suppression is vital for NFPA instructors. It allows code translation from the users perspective. Denooij hopes this is a first step to create global standards. For Caputo and Leavitt, it's an experience they can share with their students.

Holland Firefighters

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