1. #1
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    Default Burnin' down the house....

    This doesn't sound like it will be a fun time for anyone involved. It appears some wires got seriously crossed and it brings up some serious questions about the use of acquired structures that don't relate to safety.

    For discussion, if you use acquired structures"

    1) What methods of authorization do you require before you will conduct a burn in an acquired structure? By that I mean do you require some type of written document or is verbal permission considered sufficient?

    2) If you use some type of written authorization, does it have an expiration date?

    3) Do you take any steps to ensure that the person granting permission for the burn has the legal authority to do so? If you do a check, what type records do you reference?

    Link to the story with a video

    ----------------------
    Fire Drill Sparks Controversy In Elma

    April 8, 2003

    By Keith Eldridge
    ELMA - A fire drill has ignited a huge controversy in a small town. The owner of the house said the firefighters didn't have permission to torch his place.
    The owner should know, because he's the police chief.
    "We're just totally sick at the whole thing," said Elma police chief Greg Adams. "Seriously, the other night we couldn't sleep when we found out about it. It's just devastating."
    It was a vacant house he'd planned on remodeling for his ailing parents. "This was a 2-story house," he said.
    Not anymore because the volunteer fire department practiced by burning it to the ground over the weekend while the chief and his wife were away.
    "How did this happen?" said Greg Adam's wife J.T. "I was just absolutely amazed, I couldn't believe it was down."
    Some of the neighbors tell a different story. They say the police chief knew full well this was going to happen. In fact, they say everybody knew.
    "He probably didn't know it was going to be burned right when it did, but he knew it was going to be burned," said neighbor Lawrence Patton.
    In fact, Patton says the chief allowed him to salvage wood and paneling from the house before it was burned.
    "Do you think the firemen would come down here and burn it for the hell of it?" Patton wondered.
    Chief Adams responded: "Initially we had made plans to have a controlled burn and have it brought down to the ground."
    But the Adams say that was several months ago. When his mother got cancer they changed their mind and told the fire chief to hold off.
    "And for them to absolutely not do anything until we got back and had a chance to sit down and talk with them," Greg Adams said. He hasn't gotten any answers from the fire department or city hall.
    Word of this has spread like wildfire through this close-knit community. The chief just wishes word had spread to him before they lit the match.
    "To think that somebody would notify all of the neighbors and everybody else and not bother to call the police chief who's probably the easiest person in the world to get a hold of," Greg Adams said.
    He says now the tough part is telling his parents that the house he was fixing for them, their dream, has been turned to ashes.
    The mayor, who is also a volunteer firefighter, and the fire chief reportedly claim they had permission to burn the house. They’ll investigate further.

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    Default

    Of course thare should be a very strong written authorization process. That process should be reviewed an attorney for the department or the city. That is common sense.

    However...

    There is more to this story. IF they told the Chief not to do anything until they got back, arson charges should be considered. That is a big time IF. Let's wait for this one to play out a little bit.

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    Red face Oops..............

    Looks like a lack of communication, or a sympathy move to get a new house, or something.......... We use acquired structures on a regular basis, (our last is at www.gdvfd18.com or FH.com hotshots, march 03) BUT we feel that we have adequate safeguards to prevent this type of thing from happening here. We go thru a 12 page paperwork trail, specifically including a form filled out and signed by the property owner, witnessed by a 3rd party, with verification such as written documentation that utilities are disconnected, a burning permit issued, a demolition permit issued, insurance cancelled, and a lot more. We have a legal document called a "Hold Harmless Agreement" that precludes someone from claiming that they changed their mind, etc. We also follow NFPA # 1403 requirements. I am very pleased to say that we have not had an injury of any kind, to anyone, since we changed to our present system many years ago. Stay Safe....
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    Default There you go again.....

    This is sure to ignite (pun intended) a firestorm (okay, sorry) of arguments. We've been over similar arguments re: live fire training. NFPA 1403 pretty well covers this too, with the exception of a deadline. However, the sample documents included in the Appendecies include a permission slip with a FIXED date.

    Methinks this is yet another FD not knowing about and/or failing to follow 1403. Sigh.
    Last edited by jaybird210; 04-09-2003 at 01:42 PM.
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    Angry bullsh*t

    The owner is obviously screwing the VFD in order to get insurance money for the house..it's classic. The home needed "remodeling", he just decided not to burn it after all just so he could give it away, and then he just happened to be away for the scheduled date of the burn and he acts surprised. Classic, I hope the VFD has their Arson Investigators or Fire Maarshal all over this one! This guy used them as a torch!!

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    Default Re: bullsh*t

    Originally posted by 46Truck
    The owner is obviously screwing the VFD in order to get insurance money for the house..it's classic. The home needed "remodeling", he just decided not to burn it after all just so he could give it away, and then he just happened to be away for the scheduled date of the burn and he acts surprised. Classic, I hope the VFD has their Arson Investigators or Fire Maarshal all over this one! This guy used them as a torch!!
    Gee 46 truck, I had no idea you were so hooked up! Could you please cite your resources for conducting your in-depth investigation? How were you able to obtian this information from 1000 miles away? You are truly one amazing character.

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    We always had a contract written up for each acquired structure...who, what, when, where and how on the dotted line.
    Last edited by StayBack500FT; 04-09-2003 at 03:21 PM.
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    Wow, it looks like Pennsylvania is actually ahead of the game (or at least on the same field) when it comes to acquired structure live fire trainings. In Pennsylvania, all acquired structure live fire trainings must be coordinated through the state fire academy. A state certified course is set up, including 8 hours of mandatory training prior to the actual burn, and instruction in NFPA 1403. A burn permit must be granted, and the EPA must come and inspect the site, and grant permission to burn. All of this, of course, must be in writing. It is a long and drawn out process, but it works.

    Stay Safe

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    We always had a contract written up for each aquired structure...who, what, when, where and how on the dotted line.

    Yep, what he said

    At least a "Letter of Understanding" that's been reviewed by our attorney. Basically outlines that the property owner is responsible for certain things -- like obtaining the Burn Permit and cleaning up the site afterwards.

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    Default Permission, please.

    A structure is acquired. The papers are signed. The date is set.
    Waivers and releases from liability and the document that states the property cannot be claimed for insurance purposes.
    George: I know you chastised 46Truck, but when I read the Police Chief's account and the neighbor's, I kinda thought that someone wasn't being 100% honest.
    Around here, the property owners like to be invited to the training so that they can take pictures and reminisce with friends.
    Given that; it's definitely one real big black eye to all parties involved.
    Ouch!
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    Default

    Sounds to be that the Police Chief is not on the Up and Up about this one. It may have just been a SNAFU with Communications but it is evident that he at least at one time gave permission to do the burn. The neighbors sure knew that it was going to take place.

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    PAVolunteer - I do sooo miss the days when we could do structural burns "in house". If they are done in a safe, intelligent manner...there is so much to be gained. We used to burn 6-8 acquired structures a year.
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    Ok, I know I'm 1,500 miles away, but doesn't stuff look odd for a house that was just "burned" down in these captures from the video:

    Apologies in advance as I lost even more resolution after capturing from the video link above, but I think they still illustrate the points...



    The upholstery's not melted on that chair, and it doesn't look like paint is even blistered...

    Never mind in general, I usually expect to see a cellar saver situation as, well, black...



    Now, let's look at the exposures!

    A wood fence. Another building looking like a garage.
    For goodness sake, the green vine growing up in the corner of the fence & building doesn't even look wilted.

    Spidey sense is just going off the wall saying these pictures just don't look right.

    I mean, there doesn't appear to ever have been a lot of fire -- you may see a half-burned beam here and there. But those small areas are still smouldering by the time the story is picked up by TV media...somethings just ain't adding up in my mind.

    I'll be fascinated to see how this all falls out!

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    Ok, the more I look at it, the more surreal it gets. Why isn't there any debris ON the stove? Did they remove the whole roof & rafters & ceiling before burning down the house?

    Yeah, there's a little something on the stove, but I'd kinda expect to see something like the remains of a ceiling, rafters, or even a wall leaning against it.

    It just don't look right.

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    Talking George!!....

    I'm told that 46truck has his sources.......... Where's Alan..... OK, to explain an item in my earlier post, we do not set a specific date in the paperwork, preferring to wait for weather conditions, etc. We do notify all interested parties a few days ahead of time. We also, as part of the preburn preparations, notify all neighbors within a 1/4 mile area of our plans, which allows for a spectator sport on the day of the burn. Yes, we recruit new members that way. (works for us) Stay Safe....
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    Wink I think I struck a nerve!

    In response to GWCFI's enthusiastic reply to my earlier post...Damn dude! You took that awful personal didn't you (you aren't related to that PD cheif in question perhaps)?. That post was just my opinion, which is not entirely uneducated when it comes to the fire service. Bro, I call them like I see them (yes even from 1000+ miles away)...someone in that situation is not on the level..it'll come out eventually I'm sure. But even if I'm wrong..who cares?..relax buddy this is just FH Forum..not a courtroom.

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    2 Words............MESSY MESSY .........at least no one got KILLED at this one ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww !
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    Default Re: I think I struck a nerve!

    Originally posted by 46Truck
    In response to GWCFI's enthusiastic reply to my earlier post...Damn dude! You took that awful personal didn't you (you aren't related to that PD cheif in question perhaps)?. That post was just my opinion, which is not entirely uneducated when it comes to the fire service. Bro, I call them like I see them (yes even from 1000+ miles away)...someone in that situation is not on the level..it'll come out eventually I'm sure. But even if I'm wrong..who cares?..relax buddy this is just FH Forum..not a courtroom.
    I'm not your Bro.

    I take gross assumptions about things people know nothing about personally because I have investigated fires for a living for about 20 years. I will wait until FACTS come out in a few days. It is possible you will be right. But remember, a broken clock is right twice a day. It doesn't prove anything.

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    Talking ok I stand corrected

    Alright so you're not a Brother. Big deal, and if you want to bash a personal opinion posted on a general discussion forum because you take "gross assumptions personally" go ahead. You're right about something else too, whether I'm right or wrong about this little scenario proves nothing...however, since you like to quote me so often here you go "You are taking this (and yourself) to seriously...lighten up. I bet you are a real joy to have around the firehouse."

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    I bet you are a real joy to have around the firehouse."
    I truly am. My one personality flaw would be an incredibly low tolerance for idiots.

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    Sticks and Stones Georgie.....Sticks and Stones...

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    I truly am. My one personality flaw would be an incredibly low tolerance for idiots.
    Gee, I didn't mention any names.

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    Talking Getting back to the original topic...

    Does anyone take steps to make sure that the person giving the FD permission to burn a structure has the legal authority to do so?

    Several years ago, the pastor of a local church gave our FD permission to burn a house on a piece of property the church had recently purchased. The FD conducted the burn. Problem was, the pastor had failed to consult with the deacons, church body, or even the youth minister that had intended to use the house for a youth hall. The FD didn't get a lot of grief because it wasn't unreasonable to assume the preacher had permission to speak for the church (the pastor, on the other hand, soon departed to shepherd another flock). I wasn't a member of the FD then, but I was a member of the church. Every time we conduct a burn, the incident pops up in my mind and I have this nagging worry that someone else will show up to claim the ashes.

    Does anyone attempt to verify property ownership and/or see if there are any liens against it or am I just too paranoid?

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    Post Yes....

    EFD840 raises a good point. As noted earlier in this thread, we require extensive documentation, but we do not do a title search or anything like that. Our legal eagle says we are covered pretty well by a sentence in several of our county government documents (burn permit, Raze permit) that reads "Applicant further certifies that he/she is the owner, or agent of the owner, with authority to act....." That should address a concern about the authority of the person asking us to burn... Stay Safe....
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    Oh ya ... as part of the process to get a burn permit in PA, you have to have, in hand, the title to the house (I can't believe I forgot that).

    Stay Safe

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