Thread: Culpability?

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    Default Culpability?

    With all the information out there on major fire loss and death, and on how those fires started, traveled, and killed; if a jurisdiction has a major fire in an assemble occupancy due to obvious fire code violations, and if the local fire department does not participate in fire prevention programs, is that fire department culpable? If not legally then how about morally and ethically? How long will the public accept this before we are found guilty in the courts of public opinion?

    As a "profession" sworn to protect people from fire, is this not our job?

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    What is the mission statement of your department? What expectations does your department set for it's residents? My department does not perform fire inspections....the town building department does that so fire code violations would be unknown to us. We do fire prevention programs, but they are mostly geared towards children, not businesses.

    I have 2 bars/clubs/restaurants that are on the ocean front in my town. Both of which have hundreds of people packed into tight spaces with very little lighting and not so many exits. Not a far reach to imagine the chaos of fire in either one during packed business hours...
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Good question

    If you enter a business for whatever reason, more then likely you will be named in the lawsuit

    If you have no inspection or pre fire plan, more then likely you will be live at five trying to explain why you do not

    And then more then likely one will be established

    Also look at your adopted fire code to see if it mandates inspections

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    I would think it would fall to what you are mandated to do by your government. If your city does not require the FD to do inspections, as Bones' does not, the responsibility is with whoever DOES have that requirement.

    If you are the agency charged with inspections and you either fail to inspect or fail to enforce on violations, it's your butt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fire49 View Post
    Good question

    If you enter a business for whatever reason, more then likely you will be named in the lawsuit

    If you have no inspection or pre fire plan, more then likely you will be live at five trying to explain why you do not

    And then more then likely one will be established

    Also look at your adopted fire code to see if it mandates inspections
    Very good point! Legally you may not be held accountable, but how about morally? What about the courts of public opinion? If your department sustained a major fire & fire loss due to obvious fire code violations, while your department may not be held legally accountable, what type of damage would occur from the public support side?

    It always comes down to a good lawyer. Ok you weren't there for a fire inspection but had responded there the week prior for a fire alarm, "and do you mean to tell us sir/ma'am, that your firefighters did not notice the grossly overloaded electrical outlets? Such an obvious fire hazard?"

    Good point though. If you were never in the building and not required to do inspections. But again.... what is our duty as fire service professionals and when do we step up and do the right thing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    What is the mission statement of your department? What expectations does your department set for it's residents? My department does not perform fire inspections....the town building department does that so fire code violations would be unknown to us. We do fire prevention programs, but they are mostly geared towards children, not businesses.

    I have 2 bars/clubs/restaurants that are on the ocean front in my town. Both of which have hundreds of people packed into tight spaces with very little lighting and not so many exits. Not a far reach to imagine the chaos of fire in either one during packed business hours...
    Good point from a legal standpoint. Hard to say with about your building codes personnel. It has been my expierence that a great deal is missed or the hazard not fully appriciated by someone who has not crawled into a fire or watched a incipient fire flash in minutes.

    I would just like to add, that if you are not reaching adults in your programs then you are missing a big portion of fire prevention in your community. Programs for children are largely focused on fire survival AFTER the fire has occured. They have very little control on fire prevention and when they do become adults what fire prevention knowledged will they have then.

    Have you considered do a "Life Safety" spot check on these clubs on busy nights? Just making sure occupancy loads are followed, exits are clear, and fire extinguishers are accessible. Just your presence often times is enough of a reminder for managers to make sure these issues are addressed constantly. My previous department we did this with some pretty good success.

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    County fire marshall, who has authority over these types of occupancies in my area, does spot inspections. We can go up there and ask to walk around and if they wish, they will allow us, but they dont' have to. Of course, finding the time for a few volunteers to go up and do spot checks doesn't rank up in the highest priority of guys....things like work/family/etc tend to get in the way.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    We had a fire in an occupancy that was inspected by my company. The BC tried to make an issue when he pulled the inspection that had been done three months prior.

    I told him the occupancy was to code when the inspection was done. We don't do 24/7 monitoring. I can't control what happened after we walked out the door.

    That killed any ideas of ramifications.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86 View Post
    We had a fire in an occupancy that was inspected by my company. The BC tried to make an issue when he pulled the inspection that had been done three months prior.

    I told him the occupancy was to code when the inspection was done. We don't do 24/7 monitoring. I can't control what happened after we walked out the door.

    That killed any ideas of ramifications.
    Have had that happen a few times

    As long as you do a good inspection and document any problems, you kind of cover yourself

    As you all know there are plenty reasons a fire can start, not much you can do about a fire that starts in a wall

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    not exactly your question,

    BUT live at five:::



    A state probe of the blaze that destroyed part of the Spring Brook Mills complex last July, displacing several businesses, faulted the Charlton Fire Department for failing to follow up on safety concerns at the building.

    The state Department of Fire Services report notes that investigators could find no documented follow-up to a Fire Department report in 2007 detailing problems with the building's sprinkler system, which did not work at the time of the fire, or to a 2009 report of fire code violations at an automobile dismantling business there.

    The July 26, 2012, blaze began in one of the garage bays leased by an unnamed automotive dismantling business in the rear building of the complex on City Depot Road.

    "The Fire Department should adopt a tracking system for complaints and inspections," concluded state investigator David J. Beaudin.

    Fire Chief Charles E Cloutier Jr. acknowledged the problems highlighted by the state investigators and said he had hired a fire protection officer to oversee the inspections and make sure safety problems are tracked and resolved.

    "After the structure fire at 6 City Depot Road the Fire Department discovered that documentation of follow-up inspections could be better. As a small department with only 13 full-time staff, it is extremely difficult to accomplish that task," Chief Cloutier said.

    The chief got permission at town meeting late last fall to add a full-time fire prevention officer to the department. The new fire prevention officer started last month, he said.

    The Telegram & Gazette reported in August that town officials knew of serious fire hazards at a car dismantling business in the complex, known as Charlton Mills, more than two years before the inferno that destroyed the rear warehouse.

    In a December 2009 written report to Chief Cloutier, an assistant fire chief described walking into the workspace of a car dismantling business, at the time located in the main mill building, to find a host of serious fire code violations.

    "Upon entering the occupancy, there was a car in a stage of being cut up. On the back seat of this vehicle was a gas tank that was not empty and was emitting gasoline vapors," Assistant Fire Chief Michael Mahan wrote at the time.

    He also noted the presence of an acetylene torch, multiple car engines, more than a dozen car batteries and open buckets of what appeared to be motor oil.

    The state report into the fire, which determined it was ignited accidentally by a halogen lamp, also noted that Assistant Chief Mahan's concerns from 2009.

    "There is no follow-up documentation," the state investigator reported.

    The investigator also found no documented follow-up to a Fire Department inspection that found serious problems with the mill building's automatic sprinkler system. That system didn't work on the night of the fire.

    "The building's automatic sprinkler system appears to have been turned off due to maintenance issues," noted Trooper Daniel C. Jones of the state police Fire and Explosion Investigative Section.

    In addition to the 2007 Fire Department report about sprinkler system problems, the state fire investigation file includes a 2011 letter from a Leicester sprinkler company that documented a host of problems with the building's sprinklers. The report from Colby Fire Protection Inc., addressed to Charlton Mills, found that the water supply to parts of the system had been cut and capped underground and that many sprinkler heads were broken or painted over, among other problems.





    Copyright 2013 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.All Rights Reserved

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    County fire marshall, who has authority over these types of occupancies in my area, does spot inspections. We can go up there and ask to walk around and if they wish, they will allow us, but they dont' have to. Of course, finding the time for a few volunteers to go up and do spot checks doesn't rank up in the highest priority of guys....things like work/family/etc tend to get in the way.
    HEY! Hats of to the volunteers and "thank you" for the things you are able and willing to do. True citizen heroes! Brother I am FULL of suggestions but when it comes to an all-volunteer department I am stymied! Just keep doing the best you can when you can. Every minute you give to your community is more than anyone can ask. Thank you for your service and willingness to do what you do -- you are sadly a lost breed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86 View Post
    We had a fire in an occupancy that was inspected by my company. The BC tried to make an issue when he pulled the inspection that had been done three months prior.

    I told him the occupancy was to code when the inspection was done. We don't do 24/7 monitoring. I can't control what happened after we walked out the door.

    That killed any ideas of ramifications.
    Document! Document! Document! Saves you every time. But let's not forget, if you did the best you could do and did it the way it's supposed to be done - your conscious is clear. There will ALWAYS be someone looking to play the blame game and today in our profession if we let those people affect us we will have miserable careers. When you go home at the end of your shift - can you look your family in the eye and at the badge on your chest and feel good about what you've done? Then who else matters?

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    Quote Originally Posted by fire49 View Post
    not exactly your question,

    BUT live at five:::



    A state probe of the blaze that destroyed part of the Spring Brook Mills complex last July, displacing several businesses, faulted the Charlton Fire Department for failing to follow up on safety concerns at the building.
    Yeah I read this to... Ironic??? Can't really make any statement because you can never go off the media information alone. But the IFC (or any code you work from) has guidelines as to inspections procedures. Your department SOGs should also address this. If you are following the procedures and doing what you're supposed to be doing then that's all anyone can ask of you. There will always be someone looking to blame, that is our society, but if you do the right thing you can never go wrong. I know this is easier said than done but I have to live with myself.... and at the end of the day that's really all the matters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Byrne View Post
    Good point though. If you were never in the building and not required to do inspections. But again.... what is our duty as fire service professionals and when do we step up and do the right thing?
    Hmmmmmm lets see.......Not required, because the AHJ has not adopted code or ordinance mandating or allowing fire inspections; therefore making it legally IMPOSSIBLE to enter a property for the purposes of inspections, nevermind enforcing anything found.........The Ordinance has the provisions allowing legal entry for inspection purposes, the authority to write corrective action orders, and to enforce corrective action orders through enforcement action if the owner fails to correct......We wont even get into the legalities of right to enter/search and seizure of evidence rules and conduct.....I could sit here and go all night.....Moral of the story is: Without the legislation, doing the right thing is not only impossible, in some cases it could be detrimental to your career.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    doing the right thing is not only impossible, in some cases it could be detrimental to your career.
    Complete contradiction in terms and in no way how I perform my duty or live my life. I am not going to walk by a blocked exit in a nightclub and not say anything because I am afraid of reprisals.

    Without legislation enforcement is not possible, and of course you cannot force your way into a building - this is 110% correct. However when inside a building (fire alarm, med call, pre-plan, walk through, or even off duty, etc) an educated firefighter on common fire hazards can recognize and educate the business owner, maybe notify those who do have the legality to enforce. Maybe there will be a correction, maybe there won't, but we as a fire service did our job AND the right things at the same time. Simply not engaging in any type of fire prevention or education because of fear of our career is simply not acceptable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Byrne View Post
    Complete contradiction in terms and in no way how I perform my duty or live my life. I am not going to walk by a blocked exit in a nightclub and not say anything because I am afraid of reprisals.

    Without legislation enforcement is not possible, and of course you cannot force your way into a building - this is 110% correct. However when inside a building (fire alarm, med call, pre-plan, walk through, or even off duty, etc) an educated firefighter on common fire hazards can recognize and educate the business owner, maybe notify those who do have the legality to enforce. Maybe there will be a correction, maybe there won't, but we as a fire service did our job AND the right things at the same time. Simply not engaging in any type of fire prevention or education because of fear of our career is simply not acceptable.
    I dont know how things work in your flowers and kittens part of the world, but here if you are on a company-level response for an alarm system or a medical call and note something of significance, you run it up the chain of command- to your company level officer. He then runs it up the flagpole above himself......It will eventually (if at all) get communicated to the Fire Inspection/Prevention Branch who may then act. To do anything otherwise could be detrimental to your career. And not being acceptable- Tell that to your wife when you come home with an invitation to stay at home for 10 shifts without pay.

    Off-Duty is another story. Yes I have been in restaurants and have seen blocked exits. Yes I have spoken to the manager regarding the situation, and yes some have happily complied while others gave excuses for non-compliance and shrugged their shoulders when I advised I would have to call the Fire Marshal of the AHJ and discuss it with them. These are the guys in jurisdictions that dont have inspections or ordinances allowing inspections, and therefore no right for the AHJ to enforce anything. I go home, and sleep at night knowing that I tried- it's not my problem and one cannot save each and every person in each and every building you go into over the course of your career (on and off duty) from each and every code violation listed in the IFC (all 400+ pages of it.......)

    Your posts in this forum are commendable. Your desire to better building and fire safety are certainly applausible.......But again, I dont know what flowers and kittens world you are in......Here and other places we barely have enough money to make payroll for the suppression staff, never mind an inspection and enforcement staff. Couple that with politicians who are buddy-buddy with local business owners and throw in the fact that inspection legislation is weak at best and you come up with a sum of "not having enough tools to do the job right." So you do the best with what you have, do your job as best as you can and you keep your mouth shut. Otherwise, you may not have a job to go to.

    Sorry if my attitude seems **** poor, but it is reality after all.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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