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The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued a status-update on a February explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America (P.C.A.) plant in DeRidder, Louisiana that killed three and injured seven more. According to CSB, the 30-foot-tall tank had about 10-feet of water and flammable materials in it at the time, resulting in 20-feet of vapor space. A spark from nearby hot work got into the tank, causing combustion, and triggering the explosion.

The Leesville Daily Leader quoted CSB Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland as saying, "The CSB has investigated many hot work accidents across the country, including a 2008 explosion that killed three workers at a different P.C.A. plant in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Hot work incidents are one of the most common causes of worker deaths we see at the CSB, but also one of the most readily preventable.” The explosion at the P.C.A. plant was initially thought to be connected to tank pressurization; the final report will be available for public viewing on the CSB website when it is complete.


Hot work is any process involving flame, spark or heat production including cutting, burning, welding, soldering, heat treating, grinding, chipping, drilling, brazing or tapping. NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work outlines the steps for a hot work safety program. Each hot work job requires an assessment to determine the best measures needed to safeguard workers, structures, and surrounding areas, including:

  • seeking a hot work alternative;
  • moving hot work to an area free from all combustible materials;
  • separating hot work from combustible materials to a distance of at least 35 feet; and
  • protecting materials with an approved fire resistant welding blanket, pad or curtain.


Hot work is a common practice within industrial facilities, and far too often we are seeing incidents that are easily preventable. Last August, a CSB team was dispatched to a marine terminal facility in Nederland, Texas when a hot work incident at a crude oil pipeline produced a flash fire injuring seven workers. Hot work problems also occur on construction and renovation jobsites like Trinity Street Bridge. The major artery in Pittsburgh was closed for nearly a month last fall when welding ignited a plastic pipe and construction tarp causing a fire that structurally damaged a 30-foot steel support beam.

NFPA has been working with the Boston Fire Department (BFD) and Boston Metropolitan Trades Council since last fall to deliver hot work safety awareness training for the trades. A devastating hot work fire took the lives of two Boston firefighters in 2014; and BFD asked NFPA to develop a safety awareness training program for all construction workers involved in hot work projects. To date, over 15,000 workers have been trained on hot work basics so that appropriate safeguards are established and followed at every job site in the City of Boston.


The upcoming May/June issue of NFPA Journal® will include a hot work feature and the topic will be addressed in educational sessions at Conference & Expo (C&E) in June.

The NFPA Standards Council met on April 4-5, 2017 in Naples, FL. At the meeting, some of the items below were addressed by the Council:


  • act on the issuance of a proposed TIA on NFPA 70
  • review new projects/documents on preparedness and response to active shooter scenarios and incidents; and electrical inspector professional qualifications
  • consider a request from the Committee to enter NFPA 1082, Standard for Facilities Safety Directory Professional Qualifications, into the Annual 2019 revision cycle
  • consider requests from Committees to change revision cycle schedules and committee scopes
  • act on pending applications for committee membership


Read the Council's preliminary minutes for all the results of items addressed at the meeting.


The NFPA Standards Council is a 13-person committee appointed by the NFPA Board of Directors that oversees the Association's codes and standards development activities, administers the rules and regulations, and acts as an appeals body. The Council administers about 250 NFPA Technical Committees and their work on nearly 300 documents addressing topics of importance to the built environment.

Fires in structures under construction

Ever wonder how many fires occur in structures that are under construction, undergoing renovation, or being demolished? Are there deaths or injuries that occur in these structures? What would be the causes of ignition or leading causes of fires? Well, we have those answers and more in our new Fires in Structures Under Construction, Undergoing Major Renovation, or Being Demolished report! This new NFPA report states that U.S fire departments respond to an estimated average of 3,750 fires in structures under construction each year, 2,560 fires in structures undergoing major renovation, and another 2,130 in structures being demolished. 


Did you know?

In structures under construction, cooking equipment was responsible for the largest share of fires (27%).



This report will answer your questions relating to:

  • Leading causes of fire
  • Extent of flame damage
  • Causes of ignition
  • Equipment involved in ignition
  • How many civilian deaths and injuries occurred

And much more!


Click on the link above to view the report!

We are a little over a month away from the 2017 NFPA Conference & Expo to be held this year in Boston, MA...NFPA's backyard! Following completion of the Public Input and Public Comment stages, there is further opportunity for debate and discussion of issues through the NFPA Technical Meeting that takes place at the NFPA Conference & Expo® each June. This year, the Technical Meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 7 and NFPA 1, Fire Code, will be up for discussion by the membership.


Prior to being on the agenda at the Technical Meeting, a document has to receive a NITMAM (those that do not go to the end of the process and are issued as consent documents by NFPA's Standards Council in advance).  NITMAMs are a accepted on portions of the Second Draft Report for the 5 weeks following the posting of the report. NITMAMs are then thoroughly reviewed and valid motions are certified by the Motions Committee for presentation at the NFPA Technical Meeting.  The NFPA membership then hears the issue, discusses and debates the issue and a vote is taken by the membership.  Any successful NFPA 1 motion would then be forwarded to the NFPA 1 Technical Committee for their vote as well. These are all steps in the standards development process to ensure that an issued code or standard is truly a consent document.


NFPA 1 received a total of six NITMAMs which were combined into five separate and certified motions.  The motions address topics including mass notification systems, animal housing facilities, integrated fire protection systems, and storage of combustible materials. Each of these motions will be presented to the membership at the meeting:



The full Motions Committee report is posted for public access in several different location on the NFPA website.  The report contains the Certified Amending Motions that may be presented at the Technical Meeting.  The motions may only be presented at the meeting and considered by the membership if a person authorized to make the motion or their Designated Representative appears no later than one hour before the beginning of the session.


The report presents each set of motions, by document, in an overview table (shown above), followed by additional details about each motion including the resulting code text if the motion passes or fails, (example shown below). The report is in order by document number, so NFPA 1 is easily found at the front!  Each motion presented in the overview is assigned a sequence number and a NITMAM log number.  The sequence number is the order in which the motions will be heard and the NITMAM log number is the number given to the original NITMAM in the order in which it was received.  Each motion also shows the section reference from the Code, the name of the person authorized to make the motion at the meeting, the recommended action of the motion and the page of the report which included the details about each motion.



The NFPA Technical Meeting is an important step in the standards development process as it provides the opportunity for those NFPA members to voice their opinion on important issues facing debate on NFPA's top codes and standards.


Will you be attending NFPA's Conference & Expo?  Are you an NFPA member planning to attend the Technical Meeting?  We hope to see you there!


Thanks for reading and happy Friday!  Stay safe!

NFPA warmly welcomed a Chinese delegation on Tuesday, as the Association looks to deepen ties with our counterparts in China. Don Bliss, Olga Caledonia, and Guy Colonna met with Mr. Liu Xuefeng, accompanied by NFPA representative in China, Yuanjing Liu, to discuss opportunities within the Chinese first responder and enforcer communities.


From left to right: Guy Colonna, Liu Xuefeng, Jim Pauley, Olga Caledonia, Don Bliss, and Yuanjing Liu

From left to right: Guy Colonna, Liu Xuefeng, Jim Pauley, Olga Caledonia, Don Bliss, and Yuanjing Liu


Much of the discussion focused on the changing dynamics of fire safety in China, and the necessary response of the fire service.  Association members took this opportunity to learn more about the changing safety environment on the ground, as Mr. Liu explained the massive growth that has propelled China to become the world’s second largest economy:


“It has been a population explosion”, he says.  “In another 30 years, it will be a different country.  Developments in the fire service can’t catch up.”


Currently, China has 200 academies providing training on prevention and inspections, with three main regional academies dedicated to first responders. These facilities have trained over 170,000 fire service military professionals throughout the country, and tens of thousands more private citizens will soon enroll to bolster man power.


Mr. Liu leads a fact-finding mission to inform these important national initiatives, at the request of the China Fire Protection Association (CFPA).  His visit to Quincy was just part of a US tour, following a stop at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.  After the successful meeting with NFPA staff, Mr. Liu departed for the Midwest, with stops at FDIC in Indianapolis and the Illinois Institute of Technology.


The Chinese delegation offered unique insight into the future of the fire service in China.  Yuanjing Liu is a retired colonel from the China Fire Service, and over the past fifteen years she has continued her work through her relationship with NFPA.  Mr. Liu’s path to this partnership began in Chinese politics, and has since led to leadership positions both within the CFPA and the Beijing Fire Protection Association.  He has also led a successful PPE company, Yingtelai Technical Co. 


The CFPA partnership stands amongst the oldest and strongest NFPA collaborations in Asia.  This recent meeting keeps our fingers on the pulse of one of the world’s most dynamic countries, and looks to open exciting opportunities this year and beyond.

The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) for NFPA 30A, Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages, is being published for public review and comment:



Anyone may submit a comment on this proposed TIA by the June 15, 2017 closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

NFPA is continuing its efforts to provide data solutions to the enforcement community. This week we launched Phase II training of “PIP” - a tool for Property Inspection Prioritization. PIP uses an artificial intelligence approach – in other words, it is based on the collective wisdom of those in the enforcement community who have agreed to participate in its training. In the past few months, we have successfully completed our “Round 1” training and testing. Preliminary tests showed that “PIP” is an effective decision assist tool to help AHJ’s prioritize fire inspections based on multiple risk factors. To ensure the PIP tool is robust and reliable, we have reached out to the members of the International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA) to further refine and train the tool.

IFMA members who participate will be presented with 50 randomly generated “test” properties that need to be inspected. Each property will have varying levels of risk factors. Based on their expertise and experience, they will choose the 20 properties that have the highest priority need for inspection, based on risk. The “PIP” tool “learns” from these choices.

The result will be a decision support tool for enforcers who are faced with these decisions every day. We welcome your feedback; contact the NFPA PIP team at

NFPA has issued the following errata on NFPA 1983Standard on Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services:NFPA 1983

  • NFPA 1983, Errata 1983-17-2, referencing various sections of Chapter 5 of the 2017 edition, issued on April 25, 2017

An errata is a correction issued to an NFPA Standard, published in NFPA News, Codes Online, and included in any further distribution of the document.

In honor of National Poetry Month, we thought we would share something from the September 1971 issue of NFPA's Fire Journal:





For more information on NFPA and fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library

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

History shows that confined space operations are an extremely dangerous activity for the fire service. The danger starts when firefighters and responders don’t recognize the presence of or hazards within a confined space and enter without appropriate atmospheric monitoring and equipment.  In many cases, the rescuer then becomes the victim.  Last evening’s episode of Chicago Fire brought this issue to the forefront showing how taking shortcuts when entering confined spaces can lead to fatal consequences. These events do not just take place on television, they occur regularly in real life. (See my previous blog: “Three die in confined space and firefighter in critical condition”.)


Recognizing the continuing hazard for the fire services, NFPA will soon be offering a free Confined Space training for fire service professionals designed to raise awareness and understanding about the risks associated with confined spaces in May 2017.


In the meantime, login or register for Xchange today to download the NFPA 350 Fact Sheet to keep as a reference – and by downloading, you will receive an invitation to the free training when it’s available.




The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has created a new animated video to bring attention to the organization’s Serve Strong program and raise awareness about contamination and cancer in the fire service. The video is the second developed by NVFC. The first NVFC video, focused on being fit for the role of firefighter, received excellent feedback and garnered nearly 100,000 views on Facebook.


The challenges that firefighters face are daunting. Maintaining optimal safety and wellness is key for firefighters and EMTs. Serve Strong offers training and resources to support first responders so that they can be strong and healthy. The initiative is centered around the premise that the health and safety choices that firefighters make impact themselves, their departments and the communities that they serve.


Share this video to make others aware of some simple steps that will go a long way in preventing firefighter contamination and cancer.

Earlier this week, NFPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Corpo de Bombeiros da Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo (CBPMESP). CBPMESP is the leading public safety institution in the state of São Paulo with the resources needed to carry out fire and life safety programs, fire investigations and risk reduction. They are able to respond based on practices, procedures, up-to-date protocols and the ability to meet the changing demands of the state of São Paulo.


"NFPA has had a relationship with the SPFD for over 15 years and we are honored to not only formalize our longstanding collaboration via this MOU, but strengthen our fire safety efforts by supporting public education and enforcement programs here,” NFPA President Jim Pauley told SPFD leader, Cel. Cassio Roberto Armani. The two organizations are committed to the advancement of fire protection and fire prevention practices; and share a goal of promoting effective fire safety outcomes locally and internationally. The MOU signed this week establishes an overarching framework to advance fire safety in São Paulo.

As is the case in many corners of the world, NFPA will share guidance, research, resources, best practices and lessons learned from global stakeholders to CBPMESP. The agreement encourages the exchange of relevant fire, emergency and incident data, as well as training programs to help reduce risk and enhance fire safety.

NFPA works internationally with organizations, governments and businesses sharing technical and educational information about fire, electrical and related hazards. Anderson Queiroz, NFPA’s representative for Brazil, is based in Rio de Janeiro and available to assist local stakeholders.


A number of NFPA codes are translated into different languages and NFPA has Chapters in Argentina, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. NFPA offers training in Spanish throughout the region, and fire and electrical safety information is also shared via NFPA Journal Latinoamericano®, a bilingual magazine published in Spanish and Portuguese.

My two-week hiatus from #101Wednesdays had me teaching the Life Safety Code Essentials seminar in Atlanta the first week, and on vacation last week (if you can call chasing a couple tweens around hot, crowded theme parks for five days a “vacation”) – both experiences contributed to today’s installment. (This was my view as I waited to enter one of said theme parks – woo hoo!)



It’s all about context.


It might seem rudimentary to some, but I see enough people trying to use the Code this way that it warrants a blog post. Let’s say you have an existing five-story building with two exit stairs, each enclosed with 1-hour fire barriers and 45-minute rated doors. You want to determine if this arrangement complies with the 2015 edition of NFPA 101, so you go to the index and look up ‘Enclosures, Exit’, which directs you to There you see


(3)*The separation shall have a minimum 2-hour fire resistance

rating where the exit connects four or more stories,

unless one of the following conditions exists:

(a) In existing non-high-rise buildings, existing exit

stair enclosures shall have a minimum 1-hour fire

resistance rating…


Since your building is existing and you determine it does not meet the definition of ‘high-rise’, 1-hour enclosures are sufficient. So far so good. Now what about those 45-minute doors?


Back to the index and under the entry for ‘Fire door assemblies’ you find a reference to Table, Minimum Fire Ratings for Opening Protectives in Fire Resistance-Rated Assemblies and Fire-Rated Glazing Markings. The table provides the minimum fire protection ratings for opening protectives in fire barriers having various fire resistance ratings and applications. In the row for ‘Vertical shafts (including stairways, exits and refuse chutes)’ and 1-hour walls and partitions, you find an entry indicating 1-hour fire door assemblies are required. Looks like those 45-minute rated doors need to be replaced with 1-hour doors. In a five-story building with two stairs, you’re looking at something like ten doors – not necessarily an inexpensive proposition.


Or are you? This example is based on an activity the students complete in the seminar, and about nine times out of ten, this is the answer they come up with. My response is always, “You can’t use the Code with blinders on. How did you get to Table” In many cases it’s via the index. However, the index is only informational; it points to relevant Code sections. There is nothing mandatory about the index. A table or figure in an NFPA code means nothing until a mandatory code paragraph sends you to the table or figure – typically the paragraph with the corresponding number. If you look at paragraph, you find:* The fire protection rating for opening protectives in

fire barriers, fire-rated smoke barriers, and fire-rated smoke

partitions shall be in accordance with Table, except as

otherwise permitted in or


This is the mandatory requirement that tells you opening protectives need to meet the ratings provided in Table But what about, “except as otherwise permitted in or” Let’s take a look: Existing fire door assemblies having a minimum

34-hour fire protection rating shall be permitted to continue

to be used in vertical openings and in exit enclosures

in lieu of the minimum 1-hour fire protection rating required

by Table


We can stop there, because gives us the answer: existing ¾-hour, or 45-minute fire door assemblies are permitted in existing 1-hour exit enclosures. If you went straight to Table without looking at paragraph (and subsequently, you might have needlessly spent a bunch of money replacing a bunch of perfectly acceptable fire doors without gaining a whole lot of additional protection. Don’t read the Code with blinders on. Look at every requirement in context.


Here’s another example, based on a question I had in the office yesterday. You want to determine if your new building needs elevator lobbies, so again, the index entry for ‘Elevator lobby’ points to Elevator Lobby. Every floor served by the elevator

shall have an elevator lobby. Barriers forming the elevator

lobby shall have a minimum 1-hour fire resistance rating and

shall be arranged as a smoke barrier in accordance with Section



Looks like you’ll be constructing rated elevator lobbies with rated doors on every floor level. But are they really needed? If you look at the heading of 7.2.13, it reads, “Elevators in Towers.” The provisions of 7.2.13, including, are specific to elevators serving as a second means of egress from towers, such as airport traffic control towers. This is a unique application and elevator lobbies are not generally required by NFPA 101 in typical buildings. Again, applying a code provision out of context could have unnecessarily cost a lot of money.


And what does all this have to do with my vacation? On the plane ride home, I watched “La La Land.” Remember the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture for about 90 seconds? Despite Warren Beatty's obvious befuddlement, he let Faye Dunaway read what was on the card: “La La Land.” But the card also said “Emma Stone,” and at the bottom in teeny-tiny print it read, “Best Actress.” Oops. You’ve got to read the fine print. Don’t put blinders on. Think of the big picture (not the Best Picture - that's different).


It’s all about context.


(By the way, I highly recommend “La La Land.” It probably deserved to be Best Picture for at least two minutes.)


Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay safe!


Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!


Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”


Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

For the past few months, NFPA has hosted a series of videos to help explain the significant changes to the 2017 edition of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) that impacts the electrical industry as a whole, as well as the work you do every day. Many of you have told us how valuable this series is, that the information contained in each of the videos has not only helped you to perform your jobs more efficiently, but it has in effect, helped you to advance electrical safety in the process.


That’s why I’m pleased to tell you that the entire NEC changes video series is now available any time you need to revisit a topic or if you want to watch a video for the first time. Whether you’re looking for changes to the code relating to residential or commercial installations, alternative energy technologies, electrical vehicle supply equipment, limited energy and communications systems or special occupancies, or maybe your focus is on the five new articles in the 2017 NEC not covered by previous code editions, you’ll now be able to access this NEC video series easily, and in one place, here on our Xchange platform.



If you haven’t registered for Xchange yet, you can do so today. Look for the login link above to login or register for your free account. Many of you have already expressed an interest in using the platform, and still many more have actually utilized Xchange to ask questions, start conversations and collaborate with expert staff and peers. As your partner in electrical safety, NFPA is here to support you and the work you do every day. Visit Xchange today and find out what the platform can do for you.

This week I participated in the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Connected Buildings Forum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was an opportunity for NEMA members to learn from related industry speakers about the internet of things and its connection to their business.  I was asked to kick off the Forum by presenting NFPA’s vision of the opportunities that connected buildings present to enhance fire safety.  Using the Research Foundation’s Smart Fire Fighting Roadmap as a starting point, I structured my presentation around four key areas with examples of opportunities in each. Here are some highlights:


  • fire prevention – how building data (from BIM and other systems) can identify high risk structures for community risk reduction programs and to improve fire protection system inspection, testing and maintenance;
  • fire protection – how information from embedded building sensors could improve the performance and durability of both active and passive fire protection systems
  • fire mitigation/fire fighting – how real time sensor data can provide information for pre-planning, firefighting tactics, situational awareness and even firefighter health and safety
  • fire forensics – how building performance data can inform fire investigation and lead to improvements to fire safety codes and design methods.


NFPA has a good story to tell in terms of the resources we already offer on this topic.  I pointed to our electrical and building codes, our data exchange, and our fire service-related standards as examples of how to make the connection a reality. I talked about the Research Foundation’s work to enhance these standards and to highlight the smart home and smart firefighting issue. I also talked about our Data Analytics Sandbox and National Fire Data System projects which are leading the data exchange activities in our community.


If we are going to benefit from the connected buildings movement, we have to continue to reach out to organizations outside the fire community to show others the potential for these technologies to interconnect and enhance safety in a multitude of ways.

Boston Globe photo


It was great to see that Commissioner Joe Finn of the Boston Fire Department (BFD) was recognized by the Metro Chiefs as Fire Chief of the Year. The honor was bestowed on him during the recent Metro Chiefs Annual Conference in Orlando.


As you may know Commissioner Finn is a passionate and articulate advocate, who has made significant strides in raising awareness about the terrible toll cancer has taken on the fire service. Drawing from his own personal experience where he has seen many of his colleagues fall prey to this dreadful disease at an early age, Finn’s leadership team has taken the initiative to transform the Boston Fire Department. BFD is establishing itself as a nationally recognized leader in the advancement of firefighter health and safety.


Whether it's looking for and securing the latest equipment; revising department operating procedures; holding command officers accountable for fire ground behaviors; or working with top researchers both from Boston and across the globe; Commissioner Finn has left no stone unturned in his push to reduce firefighter exposure.


The Metro Chiefs made a fine choice in selecting Commissioner Joe Finn for this honor; his commitment to the city he has spent his whole career protecting and defending is commendable. Finn is a great example of modern leadership – a veteran with extensive firefighting skills and the command presence to match the most challenging of events.

We look forward to continuing our support of Commissioner Finn as he leads Boston Fire and champions the health and wellbeing of fire service members.


More than 200 firefighters responded to a five alarm fire in College Park, Maryland today and more than eight hours later there were still hot spots requiring firefighter observation in the evening.


The blaze broke out about 9:30 a.m. on the fifth and sixth floors of Fuze 47, a high-rise mixed use apartment building under construction near U.S. 1. The fire prompted a partial roof collapse, local senior citizens to be evacuated, and nearby University of Maryland to close its campus.  


The Washington Post reported that the fire service response was historic in nature, bringing together the resources of fire departments throughout Prince George's County. Prince George Fire said in a tweet that the fire is "one of, if not the largest fire suppression efforts in county history." Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in the blaze.


The apartment complex was nearly completed, however, there were no working fire sprinklers at the time. Like many apartment buildings under construction or renovation today, the building had lots of wood and empty spaces which contributed to the intensity of fire.


First responders were thwarted by the design of the building. The structure is considered doughnut-type construction, meaning there are four facades surrounding a courtyard, making fire truck and water access difficult. Fire commanders on the ground relied on police helicopter reports from above the scene to determine the location of the fire.


Smoke was heavy throughout the day and continued to cloud the region early into the evening.


Recently, there have been other high visibility fires occurring in apartment buildings under construction. To learn more about these incidents and NFPA fire safety construction requirements during construction, read this blog.

FD Profile Report Infographic 2015

The new U.S. Fire Department Profile report states that there were an estimated 1,160,450 local firefighters in the U.S. and an estimated 29,727 total fire departments. Of these, 2,651 departments were all career, 1,893 were mostly career, 5,421 were mostly volunteer and 19,762 were all volunteer. More than one-quarter of the firefighters in the U.S. are in the 30-39 age group and nearly half of the U.S. population is protected by all career fire departments.


Did you know?

70% of firefighters in the U.S. are volunteer.


Click on the link above to find out more about the results of this report, which includes:

  • The number of women in the fire service
  • The age breakdown of firefighters
  • Tenure period of firefighters
  • Differences between volunteer and career departments and the populations they protect
  • How many fire departments provided EMS

and so much more! 

This past weekend I seemed to drive by property after property burning brush leftover from winter's damage.  I even saw reports in my town of brush fires, perhaps from those taking advantage of the warm spring weather to burn.  In Massachusetts, where permitted by the individual community, the season for open burning is Jan 1 through May 1 but this many vary in your state (Historically, April is the busiest month for brush fires in Massachusetts).  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, Fire Code, 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 in public property or the property of someone other than the applicant, the applicant must demonstrate that permission has been given by the appropriate agency, owner or authorized agent.  In addition, when limits for environmental conditions or hours restrict burning, the limits must be designated in the permit restrictions (example: check your local community for restrictions due to weather conditions or time restrictions where limited available fire fighting 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:

  • 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, the AHJ can increase this distance to provide adequate protection.
  • 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. 
  • Open fires must be constantly attended by a competent person until the fire is extinguishes. The person is required to have a garden hose connected to the water supply or other fire-extinguishing equipment readily available for us. 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 does your jurisdiction enforce around outdoor fires and burning? Have you been involved in a situation where a permitted burn got out of control and required the fire department?


Thanks, for reading.  Happy Friday, stay safe!


Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

NFPA 70E allows you to put one of four things on the equipment label when it comes to arc-flash PPE. You can mark it with the incident energy, a PPE category, a minimum required rating or a site specific designation. Some confusion comes with the requirement’s wording that the label must include at least one of these. Several NFPA 70E users ask about using both the incident energy and PPE category on a label. The first thing that enters my mind when that comment is made is that this person does not fully understand how to use NFPA 70E.

That statement is made because the standard only allows one method of conducting an arc-flash risk assessment on a single piece of equipment. This would mean that either the incident energy analysis (arc-rating) or a PPE category would be used. Since PPE category is not an incident energy and an incident energy is not a PPE category, these two should never appear on a label together. Redefining a PPE category as a site specific rating could be done but then why put both on the label if they are exactly the same thing? Calculating the incident energy (arc-rating) then changing it to a site specific rating is common. A facility could use this method label all the equipment with a few PPE levels when the incident energy analysis method calculated dozens or hundreds of energy levels. It's not clear on why someone would simplify the method then make it more complex and confusing by including both. Another common method is specifying the calculated incident energy but require a minimum PPE rating above that energy level.

NFPA 70E is about protecting the worker and confusing the worker when safety is at risk is a dangerous thing. If the equipment is labeled with the incident energy or minimum required arc-rating, the worker can utilize equipment with at least that rating. Equipment labeled with a PPE category provides specifics on what the worker can use. With site specific ratings, the worker is likewise provided with specific gear or rating necessary for protection. So why not include them all? Worker safety.

Assume that equipment has been determined to have an incident energy of 1.1 cal/cm2, 1.5 cal/cm2, 3.5 cal/cm2, 4.7 cal/cm2 and 8.9 cal/cm2. If these were placed on the equipment labels as the minimum arc-rating necessary for PPE, anything rated higher for each piece of equipment would be acceptable. Now, assume that the facility safety system intends to use site-specific category BLUE for 4 cal/cm2 or less and ORANGE for over 4.0 cal/cm2 up to 12 cal/cm2. Three pieces are also marked BLUE and two are marked ORANGE. Now the employer also decides to require a minimum rating that is 2 cal/cm2 above the incident energy to increase the probability of successfully preventing a thermal injury. For the last one, assume that NFPA 70E is incorrectly used and the equipment is also labeled as no PPE Category, PPE Category 1, PPE Category 1, PPE Category 2 and PPE Category 3. The labels would look like:

Equipment #

Incident energy

Required gear

PPE rating

PPE Category


1.1 cal/cm2


3.1 cal/cm2



1.5 cal/cm2


3.5 cal/cm2



3.5 cal/cm2


5.5 cal/cm2



4.7 cal/cm2


6.7 cal/cm2



8.9 cal/cm2


10.9 cal/cm2



Can you train your employee on how to follow all four ratings on the label? Could they comply with all four or are they following the one that results in the highest rated gear? Would you permit them to select the lowest rated gear for specific equipment? Does your package for ORANGE contain specific equipment? What happens when the worker is wearing a 1.8 cal/cm2 shirt because they did not want to put on a heavier one for Equipment #1? Which piece of equipment would you let your employee work on while wearing a 2.1 cal/cm2 shirt? Which piece of equipment specifies PPE rated for at least 25 cal/cm2? Is it confusing what to wear based on these applied labels?

Maybe now you see why clearly stating the appropriate PPE, as well as using the standard correctly, is critical. The common labeling methods which include the incident energy require clear procedures so that employees understand that the specified required gear or specified minimum rating, not the incident energy, defines the only permitted PPE rating. It is often best to simplify matters to make compliance easier for the employee. Pick something for clarity. Training and enforcement will be easier. NFPA 70E is about worker safety. Why confuse the issue?

Next time: Something you don’t consider yourself to be the authority having jurisdiction for but you really are.

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

fire fighter in truck with computer


According to an NFPA survey on data, the fire service recognizes the value of data but is not satisfied with the way that data is handled today. Feedback from fire chiefs, officers, administrators, firefighters, analysts, fire marshals, inspectors and investigators shows that current fire data systems store large amounts of data but the quality, accuracy, and access to useful data is limited.  


NFPA was awarded an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) last August to develop a new national fire data system that will help improve emergency response and community risk reduction activities in the U.S. To gauge data capabilities, needs and aspirations, NFPA commissioned a survey earlier this year.


These days, fire departments are looking to paint a full picture of their duties, responsibilities and the information they need to do their job successfully. The survey revealed that:


•    organizations are collecting and maintaining data related to response, tactics, operations, patient care, fire inspection, training, public education, building occupancies, and other relevant community information;
•    there is very little fire service data uniformity or universal record-keeping;
•    collection has surpassed the capabilities of the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS);
•    and more fire departments are analyzing data for local decision-making.


The survey focused on the collection of data, analytics and information-sharing, and included:
•    questions about CAD systems, records management systems, and NFIRS;
•    a section on fire department conversion of numbers into knowledge and benchmarking;
•    and an area about internal and external stakeholder collaboration.


The bottom line of the survey is that fire data is rapidly changing. There is not one overall problem or solution. Fire departments are moving away from simply creating records, for the sake of record-keeping. They are using a host of digital resources to effectively manage fire emergencies, organizational processes, and fire mitigation. Increasingly, the fire service is capturing, analyzing and sharing data during budgeting, contract negotiations, community outreach, and procurement discussions with local and national authorities.


The NFPA data survey is an important yardstick for the 18-month National Fire Data System project. Information gleaned via the survey will help develop the groundwork for a horizontally and vertically scalable system to collect data from fire departments. NFPA’s goal is to develop, build and test an infrastructure that will ingest, store and export data that conforms to existing and emerging industry data standards. An Executive Advisory Group and Technical Working Group made up of key stakeholders is working with NFPA to design a data framework for the fire service with a focus on incident, operations, and health and wellness data.  

Oklahoma City Bombing - April 19, 1995

The bombed remains of automobiles with the bombed Federal Building in the background.


Twenty-two years ago, on April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred. On that day, 168 individuals were killed when a Ryder rental truck loaded with explosives detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damages. Local, state, federal and worldwide agencies engaged in extensive rescue efforts in the wake of the bombing.


For more information regarding this or other historic fires, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library

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



Vehicle data recorders track speed, acceleration and deceleration, braking events, seat belt usage and other metrics of ambulance operation. In the current edition of NFPA 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances, the installation of vehicle data recorders is suggested in the document’s annex. But in the upcoming edition of NFPA 1917, the NFPA 1917 Technical Committee has changed that recommendation to a requirement.


Installing a vehicle data recorder was only suggested in previous editions of the standard in recognition of the increased cost of installing a vehicle data recorder, and in consideration of potential market limitations. However, the NFPA 1917 TC now views vehicle data recorders as a needed safety measure, regardless of the cost, and has consequently decided to require their installation.


Vehicle/chassis manufacturers that don’t install recorders in vehicles under a certain weight are concerned about this requirement, as it would eliminate them from the market.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should vehicle data recorders be required in all new ambulances? Provide your feedback on this blog – we’d love to hear your perspectives and insights. Just remember that in order for your input to be formally heard, you need to provide your comments through our technical process.

Boston Fire, IAFF and Local 718 will once again host the A. Michael Mullane Health and Safety Symposium on May 18-19, 2017 at Florian Hall in Boston, MA. The Symposium features 2 days of education, networking, and vendor exhibits. A second, expansive educational track has been added this year with sessions devoted to fire ground safety and survival; emerging construction challenges; new energy considerations; active shooter incidents; and peer support programs.


The Symposium is named in honor of late 3rd District Vice President A. Michael Mullane, the longest-serving member of the IAFF Executive Board who represented IAFF members in New England for more than 30 years.


After opening remarks from BFD Commissioner Joe Finn, Local 718 President Rich Paris and IAFF Vice President Jay Colbert, attendees will get a 30,000 foot view of the modern fire service from Chief Tim Sendelbach, 30-year fire and emergency services student/educator and current Editor-in-Chief for Firehouse magazine, website and conferences. His keynote will be a no-holds barred presentation designed to uphold the mission of the fire profession while challenging first responders to examine daily routines and decision-making.


Day 1 will include relevant content about staying safe on the fire ground; cancer research updates; exposure risks; emerging technology and standards; new construction challenges; firefighter peer support; and active shooter incidents.


Day 2 educational sessions will focus on solar, electric and energy storage systems; the firefighter of the future and new technology solutions; the chemicals, dangers, and risks to first responders as communities legalize marijuana; and overcoming physical and mental trauma as a firefighter.


Casey Grant, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, will deliver the session on smart firefighting and NFPA colleagues will be on hand in the vendor area to engage with local stakeholders about resources, training, codes and standards, and other ways that NFPA supports the fire service.


Check out the Mullane Symposium session and speaker list or register hereOEMS credits are pending for this event. 


One of the most pressing current issues in the fire service is the alarming rise of cancer among firefighters. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reports that 68 percent of firefighters are expected to develop cancer, over three times the average of the general population (22%).


The fire service is taking every precaution to lower these figures by improving equipment, changing cleaning practices, and adopting best practices. They are also taking equally important steps to effectively screen firefighters for early cancer detection.


CancerDogs is one groundbreaking company that uses highly trained dogs to detect the presence of cancer cells in test samples from firefighters. Dogs are trained to detect the odor that metabolic waste from cancer cells produces in a person’s breath. More than 50 fire departments from across the United States, including Chicago, Dallas, and Chatham, MA, are working with the Gatineau, Quebec-based company to screen their fire service members for over 30 types of cancer. According to CancerDogs, 60 to 70 percent of positive samples detected by the dogs yield positive test results with other methods. The program is still in a trial phase, and has not yet been approved by the government.


Organizations around the country, including NFPA, are working on research and contamination control to help better understand how to combat the issue of firefighter cancer. 

The following four proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®, NFPA 101Life Safety Code®, and NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, are being published for public review and comment:


Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by June 15, 2017. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

Late last Thursday night, a fire broke out on the rooftop of the Bellagio hotel and casino retail annex in Las Vegas. Crews arrived just before 11 P.M. at the popular landmark with iconic fountains and the fire was knocked down in less than 20 minutes. There were no reported injuries, no rooms in the hotel were affected, and there were no mass evacuations.

The Bellagio fire did, however, present a number of challenges including strong winds that contributed to a fast spreading fire and difficult access to the fire location. It took 12 firefighters on the roof to knock down the flames, and 77 crew members in total.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but officials indicated that the cause might be related to exterior electrical or a lighting issue. Onlookers reported that the air was filled with plastic-smelling smoke and fireballs were dripping from the building. Clark County Fire Department Deputy Chief Roy Session said the rooftop of the Bellagio had a lot of Styrofoam and likely prompted the quick spread. Damage to the shopping center roof is estimated at $400,000. In 2008, rooftop welders at the Monte Carlo complex in Las Vegas caused a fire that lead to the evacuation of 6,000 guests and 100 million in damage. Investigators determined that decorative features on the exterior of the Monte Carlo fueled that fire.


For more information about high-rise building fires, hotel structure fires, view NFPA’s resources.

As spring goes on, more and more outdoor events will be popping up, many of which now include visits by food trucks and other local vendors including cooking operations. (who doesn't love local eats!) By now, many of you have heard of the efforts NFPA has put forth over the past couple of years to educate and promote the public on the importance of food truck safetyNFPA 1, Fire Code is involved with those efforts as well.  The 2018 edition of NFPA 1, arriving this fall, will include a new Section 50.7 with provisions specific for mobile and temporary cooking operations. 


The requirements are based primarily on new provisions from NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, 2017 edition as well as NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, 2017 edition.  NFPA 96 was the driving force behind the development of new provisions for food trucks and mobile cooking and they serve as the expert source for the details regarding installation and inspection, testing and maintenance for the cooking equipment used on the vehicles and other cooking operations.  It should be noted that the 2017 edition of NFPA 96 contains new provisions for mobile and temporary cooking operations in an adoptable Annex B.  The NFPA standards development process does not permit another document (NFPA 1) to directly extract from an Annex so users will not see extract notations from NFPA 96.  However, the intent of the NFPA 1 committee was to include technical requirements consistent with those from NFPA 96. The technical committees will continue to work together over the next revision cycles to further enhance, improve, and coordinate the provisions. Many additional requirements are extracted from NFPA 58.


While the Code defers the expertise of standards such as NFPA 96 and NFPA 58 for many installation requirements. inspection, testing and maintenance details, container installation, and storage, use, and transportation of LP-Gas, Section 50.7 also includes requirements that are unique to NFPA 1 and are included only in NFPA 1 based on the scope of the Code.


Food trucks that do not meet the new separation criteria from NFPA 1, 2018.


In addition to the provisions from NFPA 96 and NFPA 58, here are some of the criteria you can expect to find in new Section 50.7 in NFPA 1, 2018 edition (Hint: you can check out the exact provisions now in the Second Draft report, even before the new document is published!):

  • Permits: Where required by the AHJ, permits are required for the location, design, construction, and operation of mobile and temporary cooking operations.
  • Vehicle Safety: Wheel chocks must be used to prevent mobile and temporary cooking units from moving.
  • Separation: Mobile or temporary cooking operations are required to be separated from buildings or structures, combustible materials, vehicles, and other cooking operations by a minimum of 10 ft (3 m).
  • Tents: Mobile or temporary cooking cannot not take place within tents occupied by the public.
  • Seating: Seating for the public shall not be located within any mobile or temporary cooking vehicle.
  • Fire Department Access: Mobile or temporary cooking operations cannot block fire department access roads, fire lanes, fire hydrants, or other fire protection devices and equipment.
  • Communication and Training:
    • An approved method of communication to emergency personnel shall be accessible to all employees.
    • The address of the current operational location is to be posted and accessible to all employees.
    • Prior to performing mobile or temporary cooking operations, workers are to be trained in emergency response procedures and a refresher training shall be provided every year.
    • Training must be documented and made available to AHJ.
  • Fryers: All fat fryers shall have a lid over the oil vat that can be secured to prevent the spillage of cooking oil during transit. This lid shall be secured at all times when the vehicle is in motion.


How has your jurisdiction worked to improve food truck safety or enhanced regulations at public events with temporary cooking operations? Share your story with us by commenting below. Follow the ongoing efforts of the NFPA 1, NFPA 58 and NFPA 96 Technical Committees and check out the resources from NFPA for additional information for your community!


Thanks for reading, Happy Friday!  Stay safe!

You are all probably wondering what’s happening in the world of NFPA and Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS, or outside of the U.S.A. commonly referred to as UAV’s/Drones), especially since the request for a new standards project was approved at the August 2016 NFPA Standards Council meeting.


Wouldn’t it be nice to see what’s happening at NFPA, check out industry tools for emergency responders on sUAS, and even take a look at some stuff overseas, all at a glance? Well, see attached the NFPA sUAS Topic Handout just for you. Not just what NFPA is doing, but some really useful tools and information available through other organizations and groups.


Note the standard is still in draft development, subject to change and ballot of the full Technical Committee, and a full public review through NFPA’s Standards Development Process (once the draft is completed and approved by the NFPA Standards Council).


Stay tuned and fly safely.

At its April 4-5, 2017 meeting, the NFPA Standards Council approved a new standard for Facilities Safety Director Professional Qualifications and placed it in the Annual 2019 cycle.

The document covers the duties, requirements, and competencies required of facility safety directors for structures having an occupant load of greater than 500 in all occupancies except for industrial occupancies.


The closing date for submitting public inputs is July 28, 2017.


You can see the draft and submit your Public Inputs online by clicking here.

Treasure Island Naval Base Fire, San Francisco Bay, April 10, 1947

Pictured: Efforts to extinguish the fire at the Treasure Island Naval Base on April 10, 1947.


From the NFPA Quarterly v. 41, no. 1, 1947:

"This fire at the Treasure Island Navy Base, San Francisco Bay, April 10, 1947, destroyed buildings having a ground area of over 7 acres, all of wooden construction, without automatic sprinklers. Three fire walls did not extend through the roof, and fire doors were tied open. After delayed discovery, 54 fire companies from San Francisco and Oakland, plus 12 pieces of Navy fire apparatus, used 92 hose lines, but were powerless to prevent total loss."


For more information regarding this or other historic fires, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library

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

Cover of NFPA's report "Fires by Occupancy or Proerty Type:  2010-2014"Sometimes, you want to know the latest estimates of fires in or at a particular occupancy or property.  Maybe you care about structure fires only.  Maybe you also want to look at vehicle fires or outside and unclassified fires.  You may be interested in a broad property class, such as public assembly.  Maybe you are interested in a subset of public assembly properties, such as eating and drinking establishments.  Maybe your interest is specifically in bars or nightclubs. 


NFPA's new report, Fires by Occupancy or Property Type, is meant for those quick hits. Sorted by and showing the property use categories from the USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), these tables show estimates of the 2010-2014 annual averages of reported fires and associated civilian deaths and injuries and direct property damage by broad incident type groupings and level of detail.  While NFPA's numerous reports on fires in specific occupancies provide much more detail, there are many occupancies that do not have separate reports.  Sometimes you may simply want the most current estimates.


And once again, we want to thank the many firefighters who provide the data used to create these reports when they complete the NFIRS reports and NFPA's annual fire department survey. 



NFPA 70The NFPA Standards Council considered the issuance of a proposed Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) on the 2017 edition of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.  This TIA was issued by the Council on April 5, 2017:



Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) are amendments to an NFPA Standard processed in accordance with Section 5 of the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards. They have not gone through the entire standards development process of being published in a First Draft Report and Second Draft Report for review and comment. TIAs are effective only between editions of the Standard. A TIA automatically becomes a public input for the next edition of the Standard, as such is then subject to all of the procedures of the standards development process.  TIAs are published in NFPA News, NFCSS, and any further distribution of the Standard after being issued by the Standards Council.

One hundred years ago today, more than 130 people—mostly young women and girls—were killed in a series of explosions at the Eddystone Ammunition Corporation's loading and inspecting plant in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. I wrote about the disaster for Looking Back in the current issue of NFPA Journal


Firefighters from six communities, including Philadelphia, responded to the blasts, and many were injured at the scene, including one whose leg was shot off by shrapnel.


In the wake of the tragedy, officials from the corporation told the press they were sure the blasts were "the act of some maliciously inclined person or persons." Since the explosions occurred less than a week after the United States entered World War I, many speculated German spies were responsible. A later and more likely theory, however, placed blame on faulty equipment in the factory.

Nest (maker of the Nest Protect Smoke and CO Alarm) and the Leary Firefighters Foundation have teamed up for the second year to award two $25,000 grants for new technology and equipment to fire departments in need.

To qualify for the grant, departments need to be nominated by members of their community. The five departments with the most nominations will become grant finalists and the Leary Firefighter Foundation will award two grants through its formal grant application process. Nominations are accepted on from April 6 until midnight PT on May 12.

Nest has provided some suggested social media posts to spread the word in your community:
Twitter: Thank your local fire department. Nominate them to win a $25K grant from @Nest & @LearyFF:
Facebook: Thank your local fire department. Nominate them for the chance to win a $25K technology grant from @Nest & @LearyFF:

Departments may also download free flyers to distribute to their communities at the below link (two versions, one with full color and one with two color) or download images to share with online communities:

For details on the 2016 grant winners, visit:

Last September, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its final ruling on emergency preparedness. This ruling includes a requirement that hospitals, critical access hospitals, and long term care facilities, evaluate their emergency and standby power systems. Specifically, they must be inspected, tested, and maintained in accordance with the 2010 edition of NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems, as well as the 2012 editions of NFPA 99 and NFPA 101.


In response to this ruling, NFPA along with a dedicated group of health care facility managers, created the Certified Emergency Power System Specialist (CEPPS-HC) for Health Care Facility Managers certification. The primary goal of this certification is to provide health care facility managers an opportunity to demonstrate that they have the expertise to ensure compliance with the CMS ruling, and to help keep patients, staff, and visitors to their facilities safe.


You can find a lot of helpful information on the CMS requirements, NFPA publications, training, and certifications including CEPSS-HC, on NFPA's CMS resource page.


As always, if you want to reach out to us for any reason, leave a comment below.

Who is ready for spring?  I certainly am.  But maybe not quite ready for the spring cleaning and maintenance that comes along with it! In November 2013, NFPA published a report which examines the circumstances, causal patterns of brush, grass and forest fires reported to local fire departments.  The report shows how many people do not realize the frequency (municipal or county) fire departments around the country are called to smaller brush, grass and forest fires.  During 2007-2011, local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 334,200 brush, grass, and forest fires per year. This translates to 915 such fires per day.

  • Only 10% of these fires were coded as forest, woods, or wildland fires;
  • Two of every five (41%) were brush or brush and grass mixtures;
  • More than one-third (37%) were grass fires; and
  • 13% were unclassified forest, brush or grass fires or unclassified natural vegetation fires.

(Report: NFPA's "Brush, Grass and Forest Fires"Author: Marty Ahrens Issued: November 2013)


The buildup of exterior vegetation on properties can be a prime ignition source for fire, especially if left untouched and not maintained.  NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapter 10, includes requirements for new and existing buildings in a wide variety of general safety topics.  Every new and existing building or structure must be constructed, arranged, equipped, maintained and operated in accordance with NFPA 1 to provide a reasonable level of life safety, property protection, and public welfare from hazards created by fire and other hazardous conditions.  When we think of maintenance, we often think of the maintenance of fire protection systems such as sprinklers and fire alarm.  But, maintenance of the property is also important to the overall protection strategy of the building and cannot be overlooked.


The Code requires that cut or uncut weeds, grass, vines, and other vegetation be removed when determined by the AHJ to be a fire hazard.  This is not intended to prohibit landscaping around buildings or in other areas. This requirement addresses unmaintained materials such as weeds, grass, and brush. In many instances, fire has spread either into an area or a building or between areas or buildings because of vegetation that has grown up around a building. Vegetation should be removed from around buildings, storage areas, and other areas to prevent the spread of fire. Fires have occurred in wood chips and mulch placed around buildings and then extended to the buildings.


Example of exterior vegetation

Example of vegetation close to a building.


When the AHJ determines the total removal of growth is impractical due to size or environmental factors, approved fuel breaks to prevent fire spread must be defined and established and designated ares must be cleared of combustible vegetation to establish the fuel breaks.  For additional guidance, users may refer to Chapter 17 of the Code which provides minimum requirements for planning, construction, maintenance, education, and management elements for the protection of life and property in areas where wildland fire poses a potential threat to structures. 


The provisions of Chapter 10 are general maintenance provisions for all types of exterior vegetation that may pose a fire threat and should be enforced in all regions and for all buildings/occupancies. 


Have you dealt with maintenance of exterior vegetation at your facility?  Has your jurisdiction experienced many fires related to brush or maintained properties? How do you as a fire inspector manage this issue? Share your thoughts here!


Happy Friday, stay safe!

The April 2017 issue of NFPA News, our free monthly codes and standards newsletter, is now available.


NFPA_news.jpgIn this issue:

  • Comments sought on proposed Tentative Interim Amendments to NFPA 70 and NFPA 99
  • Standards development sessions at Conference & Expo
  • Tentative Interim Amendment issued on NFPA 70
  • NFPA 1951 Second Draft Report available and open for NITMAM
  • Errata issued on NFPA 15, 70 and 1983
  • News in brief
  • Committees seeking public input
  • Committee meetings calendar
  • Committees seeking members  


Subscribe today! NFPA News is a free newsletter, and includes special announcements, notification of public input and comment closing dates, requests for comments, notices on the availability of Standards Council minutes, and other important news about NFPA’s standards development process.


Mark your calendars! NFPA's 2017 Conference & Expo is less than two months away, and it's expected to be the biggest one yet. This year's event will be held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, June 4-7. Featuring 150 education sessions across seven tracks and more than 330 exhibitors from the industry’s leading suppliers, the conference and expo offer unique opportunities to learn directly from industry experts, earn valuable continuing education units, evaluate products, network with peers, and stay current with technological advances.

New session topics will include effective and efficient enforcement; building electrical safety programs; the Internet of Things; first responder occupational exposure and safety; water tanks; drones; code application in health care settings; and emergency management and storage. Highlights at this year’s conference include:


First Responder Health Forum: This full-day event covers the latest methods for helping keep firefighters safe from contaminant exposure and other occupational hazards. Along with health screenings and tech demos, the day will include expert speakers addressing cardiac risks, cancer prevention, suicide, fitness requirements, and other issues related to health and safety. Tuesday, June 6, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.


NFPA Tech Challenge: Using a Shark Tank style format, entrepreneurs will pitch new first responder technologies (wearables, apps, equipment) to audience members who will vote for their favorite innovation via real-time text messaging. A panel of fire and technology representatives will also ask the ventures key follow-up questions. Tuesday, June 6, 4 – 6 p.m.


Spotlight on Public Education: This two-day event is designed for fire and life safety educators and others interested in public education and community risk reduction. Featured education sessions will address clutter suppression; building a network to support community risk reduction; motivating behavior and attitude change; cultural competence; reaching people who are deaf or hard of hearing; and understanding your audience. Monday, June 4 to Tuesday, June 5, 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.


Two keynote speakers will present at the conference’s opening general session on Sunday, June 4:

Erin Baumgartner, assistant director of MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory, will show how ubiquitous sensors are monitoring everything from traffic to sewage flow, and how that data can be used to better understand and solve the problems of urban environments.

Tom Koulopoulos, founder/CEO of Delphi Group, will demonstrate how the Internet of Things is enabling an entirely new set of tools and opportunities for first responders, builders, enforcers, and the electrical community, among others.


You can register before or during the conference to attend. Early bird registration, which features discounted registration rates for NFPA members and non-members, has been extended through April 30, 2017. 


Is it normal operation to throw the switch of a circuit breaker? What about opening an access panel to get to that breaker? How about racking out a breaker? Or replacing a light bulb? The manufacturer probably states that the switch on the breaker is meant to be thrown, the access panel is intended to be opened, the breaker is designed to be racked out and the light bulb is intended to be replaced. That makes each of these tasks part of normal operation of the equipment. Doesn’t it? And if it is, doesn’t that mean that the task can be performed while the circuit is energized?

Not only is this equipment intended to do these things they are designed to do these things. That circuit breaker is only intended to be used as a switch if it has been evaluated as such. The handle itself does not make throwing the switch normal operation of the breaker. You may think that replacing a light bulb is not normal operation (even though the bulb is accessible, is intended to be replaced, and the base is designed to have the bulb removed). You may also think that there is no need to replace a light bulb while it is energized. You may think that way for a light bulb but may see a difference with racking out a breaker without de-energizing. (I know these next statements will be controversial so I don’t intend to reply to all the negative comments that will be made.) A breaker is meant to function as a circuit protective device. That is its intended normal function. If the breaker has to be racked out to function as a protective device, I would consider that normal operation. The breaker may be designed to be removed and so is that light bulb but removal is not part of their normal operation. That is the installation of those pieces of equipment. Yes, the equipment may be arc-rated or there might be justification for energized work but that is not what I am addressing. This discussion is about normal operation.

A piece of equipment is designed to perform a function. It could be overcurrent protection, temperature measurement, power conversion, or to provide light. That equipment is also designed to have an operator interact with it in order for it to perform that function. There are ON/OFF switches, dials to turn, and buttons to press. These things are what I consider normal operation of the equipment. It is what an operator must do to get the equipment to perform its function once it has been installed.

NFPA 70E® does not define normal operation for any piece of equipment because that is well beyond its scope. So the interpretation is up to you. NFPA 70E does define conditions when normal operation is permitted. You must determine that those conditions have been met before permitting your employee to interact with equipment in a manner that meets your perception of normal operation of that piece of equipment.

Next time: What your label says about personal protective equipment (PPE)

Waco Cotton Palace Fire - April 8, 1919

Ruins of Waco Cotton Palace after fire, showing failure of unprotected steel trusses.


On April 8, 1919 a fire destroyed the Waco Cotton Palace in Taco, TX. The fire last four hours and forty-five minutes.


From the NFPA Quarterly v. 13, no. 2, 1919:

"During the progress of the main fire one pumping engine was used of fifteen subsidiary fires on wooden shingle roofs of residences within radius of ten blocks. A two-story residence located some 250 feet north of the Cotton Palace was half destroyed in this manner... It is of interest to note in this connection that another Texas city -- Dallas -- has just seen fit to rescind its ordinance prohibiting wooden shingle roofs. Notwithstanding the lead which the cities of the great Southern state are taking in the matter of enforcing the principle of individual liability for fires due to carelessness or neglect, there are evidently plenty of people still left in that territory who need to be awakened to an elementary sense of their obligations to community in the matter of fire prevention."



For more information regarding this or other historic fires, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library. The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.

The revision cycle for the upcoming 2018 edition of NFPA 101 is nearly complete. That means it's handbook writing season, and I spend just about every minute of the workday writing and revising commentary for the Life Safety Code Handbook. It also means I nearly forgot to write a #101Wednesdays blog. So here we go at 6:00 p.m. (EDT).


In this abbreviated edition, I'm highlighting one of the proposed requirements for the next edition of the Code, which will likely be discussed on the floor at the annual technical meeting (what we used to call the "tech session") at the 2017 NFPA Conference & Expo (C&E) in Boston. Proposed revisions will require certain occupancies to have a risk analysis performed to determine the need for a mass notification system, or MNS. MNSs differ from fire alarm systems in that they are used to provide warning not only to building occupants, but also larger populations, such as the students, faculty, and staff found on a university campus comprised of numerous buildings and outdoor areas. In addition, the types of emergencies reported via MNSs can include not only fire, but also weather emergencies, natural disasters, and acts of violence, such as an active-shooter on campus (more info on NFPA's project on preparedness and response to active shooter scenarios and incidents can be found here). The detailed requirements for MNS risk analyses and system design and installation are found in NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.


To review the proposed requirements, see the NFPA 101 Second Draft Report and navigate to Chapter 9, Section 9.14. If this subject is important to you, whether you're in favor or against, you'll want to attend the C&E so your voice can be heard. Certified amending motions (CAMs) are set to be posted on April 17.


Thanks for reading, and stay safe.


Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!


Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”


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(photo courtesy of The Sun)


Reuters reports that a huge explosion ripped through a fireworks factory in Northern Portugal on Tuesday, killing six people including the factory owner. At least four of the deceased were from the same family; two more workers are missing. It is unknown how many people were in the factory at the time of the explosion, but it is estimated that 15 people worked at the facility in the village of Avoes.


Dozens of firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene, but were unable to attack the blaze for some time due to ongoing explosions.


Another deadly fireworks catastrophe occurred less than four months ago in Mexico City. That epic blowout in a San Pablito market, took the lives of 42 people and injured dozens more just before Christmas. The San Pablito fireworks market – which once deemed itself the “safest” in Latin America – has exploded three times in the past 12 years.  


NFPA has two codes that relate to professional use of fireworks; they do not apply to retail sales, associated storage or consumer use. NFPA 1123, Code for Fireworks Display applies to set up and operation of professional outdoor fireworks displays and NFPA 1124, Code for the Manufacture, Transportation and Storage of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles covers the fire and life safety requirements for manufacturing, transporting, and storing fireworks, pyrotechnic articles, and any components containing pyrotechnic or explosive compositions. 

fire and life safety codes, quiz, facility manager, building owners, project managers

As a facility manager, building owner or project manager responsible for the safety of a building's occupants, how much do you know about NFPA fire and life safety codes?


Take our quick quiz and test your knowledge of NFPA 25: Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems; NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code: and NFPA 80: Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives

   photo courtesy of The Daily Mail/AP


Fire broke out in a high-rise building in Dubai yesterday, generating a thick blanket of black smoke across the skyline. The 60-story Fountain Views complex, being built just a stone's throw from the world's tallest skyscraper, is designed to connect to Dubai's largest mall. The fire broke out on the parking level of the building. The cause of the fire is unknown and there were no injuries reported in the skyscraper that will house 788 apartments and a hotel.


Civil Defence officials announced that firefighters from eight stations fought the blaze and four workers were rescued.


The latest incident brings to mind the massive fire that broke out on New Year's Eve in December 2015 at the Address Hotel in Dubai, a five-star, 63-story luxury property not far from the Fountain Views. For several years, building authorities and safety experts have raised concerns about the cladding materials used to cover Dubai's iconic skyscrapers.


In January The National, a Middle East news outlet, reported that Dubai officials announced more restrictive regulations on exterior cladding. Combustible commercial wall materials are often used to improve energy performance, reduce water and air infiltration, and allow for aesthetic design flexibility.


The Fire Protection Research Foundation has researched combustible exterior cladding to develop the technical basis for fire mitigation strategies. The Foundation has also published a report on hi-rise fires in the U.S. that looks at structure fires in building at least seven stories high (apartments or other –multi-family housing; hotels; dormitories or dormitory type properties; facilities that care for the sick; and office buildings). 

April is National Autism Awareness Month. With the number of diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders increasing—they’ve nearly tripled for children in the U.S. since 2004—it’s important for first responders to be familiar with the condition.


In January, I spoke with Bill Cannata, a former firefighter turned educator, about the importance of teaching first responders about autism, as well as educating people with autism about fire safety. Our conversation appears in “Clarifying Autism” in the current issue of NFPA Journal.


Cannata said the most common calls for service involving individuals with autism are search and rescue calls that are often the result of these individuals wandering away from the safety of their homes or schools. Rescuing individuals with autism can be difficult, he said, because they often don’t recognize when a situation is dangerous. Cannata is a trainer for the Autism Society of America’s Safe and Sound program and the program director of the Massachusetts-based Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition.

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