As I watched news coverage this weekend of the nightclub fire in Brazil where 232 people were killed by pyrotechnics that ignited, I remembered a very similar situation in 2003 in a nightclub in Rhode Island where a large number of people were killed in a nightclub blaze. This sort of thing doesn’t have to happen.
In my new role in leading both police and fire departments, I’ve met with our fire inspectors, Josh Boyce and Fred Solomon twice recently to learn more about their priorities for 2013. These are two highly trained and specialized individuals who work hard to keep our community safe. It is important to know that today’s commercial and residential fires are different from fires in the past. Many of items that we have and use in our homes and businesses are made of petrochemical materials that burn hotter and faster than ever before. So the best way to fight fire is to build in systems that don’t allow it to start in the first place. Fire prevention is the name of the game and fire inspection is what leads to fire prevention.
While we don’t have many nightclubs in our town we do have businesses and educational institutions that use and store large quantities of materials that have been deemed hazardous by law. It is the job of Josh and Fred to make sure that they are properly stored, fire suppression systems are effective and all fire codes are met–for everyone’s safety. And it is required by both federal and state law. One of the primary areas they focus on are the public assembly areas — where people gather–for social events or performances. Tragedies like the one in Rhode island or the one in Brazil can be avoided if the fire codes are enforced.
I know there are people out there who don’t see what they do as very important–they avoid the required annual reporting and give the inspectors a hard time when they are trying to do their jobs. I suspect that some people see it as unnecessary government intervention but I don’t agree. Huge fires that kill people are not that uncommon around the country. The laws we have are in place to protect the public and our first responders.
Fire Safety in Night Clubs Here is a link to an audio broadcast from NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” with a Baltimore Fire Department official talking about fire inspection and nightclubs.
Brazil fire a reminder of R.I. blaze: Column