The Fire Code Strikes Again

And the squeeze on non-governmental services — most notably from the Roman Catholic diocese — pushes another one over the edge:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has told a state nursing home association that it is closing St. Francis House, its assisted-living center at 167 Blackstone St. later this year, a spokeswoman for the association said. …
Mary K. Talbot, of the Rhode Island Association of Facilities and Services for the Aging, said the diocese told the association it would cost $250,000 to $500,000 to bring the center into compliance with the state fire code.

WPRI has more details:

It serves 46 low-income elderly residents who require assistance with normal daily activities, but do not qualify for nursing home care.
To achieve full compliance with fire code regulation in Rhode Island, the St. Francis House would need $500,000 in immediate upgrades to the sprinkler and fire alarm system.
In addition, officials say that low reimbursement rates for patient care at the facility has caused St. Francis House to incur monthly deficits of $10,000.

Yes, many of these suborganizations were struggling already, but that’s nothing new to charitable groups, and $500,000 is more than four years worth of $10,000 monthly losses.
By the way:

St. Francis House employs 22 full- and part-time employees.

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Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Foolish and unnecessary overkill, the new fire codes need to be completely repealed and all businesses who complied or started to comply with them need to be given tax credits for the cost of the work they did.
The Station Night Club fire would still have taken place, inclusive of every death and injury, if the new codes had been in place. The fire was the result of unenforced, not inadequate, fire laws.

Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

<sarcasm>Yeah, but look, no other fires have happened that killed many people since the codes went into place, thus, they work.</sarcasm>

michael
michael
12 years ago

Had the West Warwick Fire Department been properly staffed many lives would have been saved that night. Perhaps the Catholic Church could open their checkbook and bring the place up to code.

EMT
EMT
12 years ago

There has never been a multiple fatality fire in a building fully sprinkler-equipped.
Seems like something you’d want to avoid in a nursing home.
http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2003/02/27/2003-02-27_nursing_home_fire_kills_10_i.html

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

“Had the West Warwick Fire Department been properly staffed many lives would have been saved that night.”
This statement is incorrect. The Station Night Club was fully engulfed in flames when the first truck arrived -natural, as the walls were lined with, essentially, gasoline (i.e., the infamous foam, which West Warwick Fire Inspector Dennis LaRocque failed to see).
If there had been one million firemen on the first truck that arrived, the result would hav been the same.

fire_1
fire_1
12 years ago

Monique, you have obviously never done the job before and i can assure you that while you are right that lives would have been lost anyways… many more lives would have been saved if there had been more then 2 guys arriving on the first due engine…. Isnt one life saved worth the money that is paid for fire service… for example if the truck had been staffed properly with 4-6 guys on it, you could have had more men pulling poeple out of the wreckage…. Clearly you dont know the fireground jobs and would appreciate it if you left the issue alone seeing as you have no idea what your talking about….

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Yeah, see, the “shut up and allocate more money our way because we know what we’re talking about and you don’t” thing is losing its currency in our sinking state.
A more productive approach might be to edify others with your expertise and maybe even to offer suggestions as to affordability or other cuts that could support increased fire expenditures.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

You’re an expert, Fire_1? Excellent. Let’s look at fire supression whollisically.
Wouldn’t you agree that fire inspections play a very important role in this process? Isn’t it far better to prevent a fire, or at least minimize the presence of accelerators and excelsior in a structure, especially a high occupancy one? Aren’t the minimum occupancy laws a very good thing indeed, because among other things, they enable the occupants of the building to exit in the event of a fire?
In short, isn’t it far better when everyone across the fire prevention spectrum, fire inspectors and firemen, does their job? Doesn’t this lead to far fewer deaths and property damage. Doesn’t this also pre-empt someone from making the case (I’m sure you weren’t doing so here), after a terrible fire, that fire trucks ought to be manned as though hundreds of fire marshalls across the state are not doing the vital job that we depend upon them to do?

John
John
12 years ago

Doesn’t RI already spend more per capita on fire protection than any other state in the nation? And we still have manning issues, don’t we?
Could this have anything to do with (a) benefits; (b) disability, sick, and overtime claims; and (c) 39 cities and towns creating inefficient station siting (e.g., look how close EG and NK Station 4 are to each other)?
I have a lot of respect for M. Morse and his complaints about the situation facing Rescue 1. However the answers to his problems, and other complaints from fire fighters, lie (on the supply side) both within the larger “fire dept culture” in RI, and (on the demand side) at the GA, which has over the years enacted policies that have led to many of the problems he writes about so eloquently.

michael
michael
12 years ago

“Yeah, see, the “shut up and allocate more money our way because we know what we’re talking about and you don’t” thing is losing its currency in our sinking state.”
The fire codes send zero money “our way.” Private companies profit from the installation of the fire code compliant systems.
Monique, I seldom if ever make statements of fact about subjects I know little about. I do know a lot about fighting fires. One of my worst memories from eighteen years on the job involves two infants who died in a Sunday afternoon fire directly across the street from the fully staffed (almost, only three on Ladder 3) Admiral Street Fire Station. A thousand firefighters wouldn’t have saved those kids, both of whom died in my hands.
Fate and circumstance are cruel at times. The fire at The Station was a little different. I watched, along with thousands of others unedited live pictures from the site as it happened. All of those people stuck in the doorway were alive when the first trucks rolled in. One of them actually survived from the bottom of the pile. Had a Ladder company with four firefighters responded, with quick vent and chain saws running the wall would have been breached while the engine company would have secured a water supply and provided a water curtain during the operation. Lives would have been saved. Definately.
Thanks John.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Michael,
My comment was targeted directly toward the statement from fire_1, who didn’t address the code, but the number of firefighters. However persuasive your arguments might be, telling others to shut up and not voice their opinions on an opinion Web site displays an attitude that is central to anti-union sentiment.

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Michael M, thank you for your courteous input.
You’re right, I lack complete information about the exact progress of the fire when the first fire truck arrived. I will say that the statement “it was fully engulfed at that point” was made to me by a person who is 1.) very well informed on the fire and 2.) not anti union. I don’t withdraw the statement but I do suspend it so as not to detract from my main point, which is:
The culpability of Dennis LaRocque. Extra manning and equipment would not have been needed for this fire if Fire Marshall Dennis LaRocque had done his job. Either the Station Night Club would have been shut down altogether or the “gasoline” would not have been on the walls and the occupancy would have been half. While a fire would still have started that night because the Derderian brothers would still have failed to get the proper approvals for the event, both of these factors – the lack of gasoline and a lower, legal occupancy – would have enabled far more (all?) people to safely exit.

EMT
EMT
12 years ago

Doesn’t RI already spend more per capita on fire protection than any other state in the nation?
Misleading. Other states don’t have as high a number of firefighters providing EMS versus total firefighters. Comparing “firefighting firefighters” and the corresponding budget allotments would be more accurate, but not as helpful to those looking for opportunities to slash public safety.
Put simpler: subtract RI’s fire-EMS personnel and funding from what you compare to other states fire suppression spending, and I think you’ll find us quite under-protected.

Tom Kenney
12 years ago

Justin, I agre with your thought process on telling people (to paraphrase here) “to shut up and listen to me” do nothing to help shine a light on the real issues. However, one of the first statements here was from Monique. (Monique, I don’t mean to single you out, because many people in the state see things exactly as you do) Monoque’s statement did nothing to further the dialogue on the Fire Codes or on the lessons that could be learned from The Station Fire. “Foolish and unnecessary overkill, the new fire codes need to be completely repealed …” This is a ridiculous statement which even she cannot justify. Are some parts of the Code overkill? Maybe…maybe not. Point to an issue and debate its justification and we could all possibly benefit from the discussion. “The Station Night Club fire would still have taken place, inclusive of every death and injury, if the new codes had been in place. The fire was the result of unenforced, not inadequate, fire laws.” Blatantly untrue. Sprinkler systems and updated alarm system (which are probably the bulk of the fire code expenses that add up to the $250,000-$500,000 price tag for renovations of the nursing home which is the source of this dialogue) would have saved a great many of the victims and helped to reduce the number of injuries. “If there had been one million firemen on the first truck that arrived, the result would hav been the same.” This is a recklessly blatant statement which is absolutely false. Adequate staffing (not …one million fireman…” would have saved lives that evening. Monique is correct that following the old Fire Codes would have prevented that tragedy. The fact that pyrotechnics were used in the club was against the old Fire Codes and if they… Read more »

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