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I'm really happy to announce three new children's videos from NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division.

The videos, “Sparky’s Wildfire Safety Home Projects for Kids and Parents,” “Sparky’s Neighborhood Wildfire Safety Tips for Families” and “Sparky and NFPA’s Wildfire Safety Checklist” feature NFPA’s spokesdog, Sparky the Fire Dog® who teaches young children the importance of wildfire safety.

Each video provides a fun and easy way parents and children can work together to help reduce the risk of wildfire damage to their homes and around their neighborhoods.


The videos complement other youth-related wildfire information including interactive games, quizzes and artwork, and teaching materials. And don't forget, you can share these videos and other great resources with family and friends! 

For more information and to watch all three videos, visit NFPA's wildfire "information for youth and families" web page.

Kathie blog
It’s every driver’s nightmare. You’re trapped in your car in a two-lane tunnel with no way out, and the tractor-trailer truck in front of you is on fire, filling the tunnel with smoke and toxic fumes. Unfortunately, it was no nightmare for people driving through in the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy on March 24, 1999. It was frightening reality.

That morning, a truck carrying 12 tons of flour and nine tons of margarine entered the French side of the tunnel, the two-lane, 7.2-mile tube connecting France and Italy beneath the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps. Midway through the tunnel, the driver noticed smoke coming from his vehicle and stopped to investigate. Before he could even grab his fire extinguisher, however, the cab exploded. Behind the burning truck, 38 people were stuck in their cars with nowhere to go.

For more on the story, read "Tunnel Nightmare" in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.

Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.


A fire at the MGM Grand Hotel on November 21, 1980, resulted in the deaths of 85 guests and hotel employees.  About 600 others were injured and approximately 35 fire fighters sought medical attention during and after the fire.

The high-rise building, constructed in the early 1970s, consisted of twenty-one casino. Showrooms, convention facilities, jai alai fronton, and mercantile complex.  The hotel was partially sprinklered but major areas including the Main Casino and The Deli, the area of origin, were not sprinklered.  About 3,400 registered guests were in the hotel at the time of the fire.

As reported by the Clark County Fire Department, the most probable cause of the fire was heat produced by an electrical ground-fault within a combustible concealed space in a waitresses’ serving station of The Deli.

Following full involvement of The Deli, a flame front moved through the Casino.  Smoke spread to the high-rise tower through stairways, seismic joints, elevator hoistways and air handling systems.  The means of egress from the high-rise tower was impaired due to smoke spread into stairways, exit passageways and through corridors.

The high-rise tower evacuation alarm system apparently did not sound and most guests in the high-rise were alerted to the fire when they heard or saw fire apparatus, saw or smelled smoke, or heard people yelling or knocking on doors.  Many occupants were able to exit unassisted down stairs.  Others were turned back by smoke and sought refuge in rooms.  Many broke windows to signal rescuers or to get fresh air.  The fire department confined the fire to the Casino level in a little over an hour.  It was approximately four hours before all guests were evacuated.

Of the 85 fatalities, 61 victims were located in the high-rise tower, and 18 were on the Casino level.  Five victims were moved before their locations were documented.  The 85th victim died weeks after the fire.  Of the 61 victims found in the high-rise tower, 25 were located in rooms, 22 were in corridors, 9 in stairways and 5 were found in elevators.  One person died when she jumped or fell from the high-rise tower.

The major factors that contributed to the loss of life that occurred as a result of this fire incident are the following:

  • Rapid fire and smoke development on the Casino level due to available fuels, building arrangement, and the lack of adequate fire barriers.
  • Lack of fire extinguishment I the incipient stage of fire.
  • Unprotected vertical openings contributed to smoke spread to the high-rise tower.
  • Substandard enclosure of interior stairs, smokeproof towers and exit passageways contributed to heat and smoke spread and impaired the means of egress from the high-rise tower.

For the full NFPA Fire Investigation report. To read the January 1982 NFPA Fire Journal article


I was fortunate enough recently to be able to spend the day with members of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) to learn about the department’s amazing Risk-Based Inspection System, or RBIS. The trip was to do reporting for the feature, "In Pursuit of Smart," which you can read in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal

The backbone of the system is a computer algorithm called FireCast, which is able to analyze three years worth of building data using as many as 7,500 different fire risk factors. After complex calculation, FireCast produces a fire risk score for each of the 330,000 buildings in the city that FDNY firefighters are responsible for inspecting. Firefighters use the RBIS information to schedule their inspections so that they get into the riskiest buildings first, which they hope will help them prevent more fires and enable them to be more familiar with critical building systems if a fire were to occur. It’s a great example of how fire departments today are using smart tools and new technologies to make their communities safer.

I recently sat down with Kyle MacNaught, online editor for NFPA Journal, to discuss RBIS, how it works, what it aims to do, and how an everyday firefighter in New York uses and interacts with the system.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out to me at

Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.

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