USFA releases report on college dwelling fires

“An estimated average of 3,800 fires occurs each year in university dwellings,” according to University Housing Fires, a report developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration’s (USFA) National Fire Data Center in November. The report, based on 2005 to 2007 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System, explains that these fires have caused five deaths, 50 civilian injuries, and $26 million in property loss. The document is part of the USFA’s Topical Report Series.

“The simple act of cooking by students continues to present dangers when safety is taken for granted,” points out Kelvin J. Cochran, U.S. fire administrator. He adds that the USFA’s goal is “to continue, through this report and others, its support of fire safety efforts by all fire departments working closely with faculty to ensure a safe and fire-free educational environment.”

The report also noted the following:

  • Ninety-four percent of university housing fires occur in dormitories and dormitory-type residences and six percent occur in fraternity and sorority houses.
  • These fires peak in September and October and are most frequent from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., when students prepare snacks or cook meals.
  • Cooking is the primary cause of these housing fires (83 percent). Fires contained to the food container account for 77 percent of the housing fires.


The report can be downloaded at


Line-of-Duty Deaths



November 26. Firefighter Clair Melvin Pierce, 68, Wellsboro (PA) Fire Department: passed away at home after responding to a series of EMS and fire calls. The cause and nature of his fatal injury are still to be reported.

December 24. Chief Craig C. Starr, 44, Plymouth (UT) Fire Department: apparent heart attack.

December 28. Firefighter/Paramedic Paul D. Holmes, 37, Douglas County Fire Department, Douglasville, GA: vehicle accident while responding to a vehicle fire with injuries.

December 29. Firefighter Steve Koeser, 33, St. Anna Fire Department, New Holstein, WI: injuries sustained in a large explosion in the parking lot of a manufacturing plant.

December 29. Firefighter Richard Adam Miller, 24, Belmont (NC) Fire Department: collapsed while participating in physical fitness training activities.


January 2. Captain Urban A. Eck, 51, Wichita (KS) Fire Department: complications associated with an undisclosed cardiac problem.

January 13. Firefighter/Past Chief Leroy Kemp, 85, Tioga Center (NY) Fire Department: multiple vehicle crash.

January 14. Firefighter Jerry Thompson, 55, Linwood Volunteer Fire Department, Union, MS: apparent heart attack.

January 16. Lieutenant Joseph Mack McCafferty, 59, Lancaster (OH) Fire Department: apparent stroke.

January 17. Major Terry Cannon, 52, Bucchel Fire Protection District, Louisville, KY: apparent heart attack.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database


New antibiotics to treat bioterrorism agents


The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) will develop new antibiotics to treat anthrax, tularemia, and plague with the $4 million grant it received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Anthrax, tularemia, and plague, caused by naturally occurring bacteria, are classified as “category A” agents and could be used in bioterrorism and biowarfare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these microorganisms can be easily transmitted and disseminated and result in high mortality.

None of the antibiotics now available “is ideal” for treating these infections, according to Michael Johnson, professor and director of the UIC Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, lead researcher on the two-year grant. He added that doxycycline is the only currently available antibiotic that can be used to treat more than one of the three diseases.

Moreover, Johnson says, terrorists might possibly develop multidrug resistant strains for all three diseases. The goal, he explains, “is to develop an advanced series of broad-spectrum antibacterial ‘lead’ compounds that are safe, efficacious, and can be taken orally.”


2008 statistics on firefighter line-of-duty injuries


In 2008, an estimated 79,700 firefighters were injured in the line of duty, about the same number as in 2007, according to “U.S. Firefighter Injuries—2008.” The report was prepared by Michael J. Karter and Joseph Molis.1 The data were collected during the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience for 2008. Among some of the findings in the report are the following:

  • There were an estimated 10,380 exposures to infectious diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV, equivalent to 0.7 exposures per 1,000 emergency medical runs by fire departments.
  • There were an estimated 20,650 exposures to hazardous conditions such as asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, and fumes, equivalent to 18.9 exposures per 1,000 hazardous conditions runs.
  • The largest number of injuries occurred during fireground operations—36,595 injuries, or 45.9 percent. Although the number is a decrease of 54.2 percent from 1981, the rate of injuries per 1,000 fires has been virtually unchanged, since the number of fires also decreased considerably over the same period.
  • Fireground injuries included strains, sprains; wounds, cuts, bleeding, bruises; smoke or gas inhalation; burns; and thermal stress.
  • Nonfireground injuries consisted of strains, sprains, and muscular pain and wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises.
  • Fireground injuries were caused by falls, slips, jumps, overexertion, strain, contact with objects, and exposure to fire products.


An estimated 14,950 vehicle collisions involving fire department emergency vehicles occurred when departments were responding to or returning from incidents. These collisions resulted in 670 firefighter injuries.

1. The report can be downloaded from and is in the November/December 2009 issue of the NFPA Journal®.


AFG Web site adds AFG Spotlight


The Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency Grant Programs Directorate/U.S. Fire Administration has added AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grant) Spotlight to the AFG Web site ( The first article covered the status of the AFG’s 2009 funding programs, including the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program and the Fire Station Construction Grants. The DHS is accepting input for new features and ideas for future topics. Send them to


MCA offers bulletin on ventilating attic fires


The Metal Construction Association (MCA) is offering the four-page Ventilating Attic Fires bulletin without charge. It can be downloaded from It offers tips on identifying a stone-coated metal roof, accessing and ventilating a stone-coated metal roof in the case of a fire, and a case study on metal’s performance in internal attic fires. The booklet also contains an outline of the fire protection features of metal panel roofs. They include high wind resistance, light weight, high-impact strength, resistance to ember entry, noncombustibility, and its ability to contain the fire to the structure (i.e., metal roofing does not allow burn-through and roof collapse).

The MCA describes the bulletin as a training and education tool for fire code officials, fire marshals, fire departments, and others. Representatives from the California Fire Marshal’s office have reviewed the content and have offered suggestions during its development.


ASTM to add certification program


ASTM International is to develop the ASTM International Certification Program for products (materials, products, services, and systems, as well as personnel). The certification program is to meet “expressed needs for independent, third-party demonstrations of compliance to standards,” according to James A. Thomas, president of ASTM International. Additional information on the program is available from Ken Pearson, senior vice president, ASTM International, at or (610) 832-9672.


Wildland fire heads list of largest loss fires: NFPA


According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Large-loss fires in the United States-2008 report, the largest loss associated with fires and explosions was a wildland fire in Southern California. This is the fifth time in the past 10 years that a wildfire led the list and the second year in a row that the wildland fire was in Southern California. The NFPA defines a large-loss fire as one that results in property damage of at least $10 million.

The report also revealed the following:

  • Fire departments responded to 35 fires in 2008 that resulted in losses of $10 million or more each.
  • The 35 fires caused 15 deaths and injured 60 civilians and 32 firefighters.
  • Direct property loss from these fires was $2.34 billion.



Codes, standards “qualified anti-terrorism technology”


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, and 14 other NFPA codes and standards as “Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology” (QATT) under the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (SAFETY Act). These standards were also certified as “Approved Product(s) for Homeland Security” under the provisions of the SAFETY Act. QATT designation and certification as an approved product for homeland security under the SAFETY Act provides legal protections for the NFPA codes and standards development process as applied to anti-terrorism.

The 15 standards address emergency preparedness, first responder competencies and professional qualifications, personal protective equipment, and specialized tools. Following are the additional 14 codes that were “qualified”: NFPA 472, Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents; NFPA 473, Standard for Competencies for EMS Personnel Responding to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents; NFPA 1006, Standard for Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications; NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance or Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting; NFPA 1852, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA); NFPA 1936, Standard on Powered Rescue Tools; NFPA 1951, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Technical Rescue Incidents; NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting: NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services; NFPA 1982, Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS); NFPA 1991, Standard on Vapor-Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Materials Emergencies; NFPA 1992, Standard on Liquid Splash-Protective Ensembles and Clothing for Hazardous Materials Emergencies; NFPA 1994, Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents; and NFPA 1999, Standard on Protective Clothing for Emergency Medical Operations.


Outdoor secondhand smoke raises concerns


Outdoor smoking areas might be creating a new health hazard, according to a recent study by the University of Georgia (UGA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found levels up to 162 percent of cotinine, a nicotine byproduct, in nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke outdoors than in the control group. The study’s results were published in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Study coauthor Luke Naeher, associate professor in the UGA College of Public Health, notes the following:

Indoor smoking bans have helped to create more of these outdoor environments where people are exposed to secondhand smoke. We know from our previous study that there are measurable airborne levels of secondhand smoke in these environments, and we know from this study that we can measure internal exposure. Secondhand smoke contains several known carcinogens, and the current thinking is that there is no safe level of exposure. So the levels that we are seeing are a potential public health issue.


Naeher and his colleagues conducted the study in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, which had enacted an indoor smoking ban in 2005. Twenty nonsmoking adults were placed in one of three environments outside bars, outside restaurants, and—for the control group—outside the UGA main library. Volunteers gave a saliva sample immediately before and after the six-hour study period. The saliva was tested for levels of cotinine, a commonly used marker of tobacco exposure, but it is not a carcinogen. Participants stationed at outdoor seating and standing areas at bars showed an average increase in cotinine of 162 percent; those outside of restaurants showed a 102 percent increase, and individuals in the control group near the library had a 16 percent increase.

Although an exposure of six hours is greater than the exposure time average patrons would usually experience, Naeher says employees can be exposed for even longer periods. He adds that the health impacts of outdoor secondhand smoke are still unknown.

The researchers say it is too early to draw policy conclusions from these findings. They are planning a study that would measure levels of a molecule known as NNAL, which is a marker of tobacco exposure and a known carcinogen, in people exposed to secondhand smoke outdoors. The study was funded by the Northeast (Georgia) Health district, the Athens (Georgia) Community Wellness Council, and the Athens tobacco Prevention Coalition. The University of Georgia press release, Nov. 18, 2009


“Dangerous aging trend” in small communities


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) first began tracking the age of firefighters by community size in 1987. For the first time since then, it has found that the majority of firefighters protecting communities with populations of fewer than 2,500 are 40 years of age or older. In 1987, more than 63 percent of these firefighters were under the age of 40. Slightly more than 400,000 firefighters (out of 1.15 million total) protect communities with populations of 2,500 or less, including 399,000 volunteer firefighters.

Philip C. Stittleburg, National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) chairman, explains that it has been difficult for volunteer departments to recruit and retain new members for a variety of reasons. “We need creative solutions to recruit and retain the next generation of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel,” Stittleburg says. “The world that we live in is changing and if we don’t adapt to meet new challengers, fire protection in thousands of communities across the country will suffer for it.” He added that it is his hope that the findings in this report will lead fire service leaders and elected officials to redouble efforts to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters.


CDC warns of phishing scam


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned of fraudulent e-mails referencing a CDC-sponsored state vaccination program of H1N1 (swine flu). The messages ask that users create a personal H1N1 Vaccination Profile on the Web site.

The CDC says that if you click on the embedded link in the e-mail, you risk having a malicious code installed on your system. Do not open or respond to unsolicited e-mail messages, and do not click links embedded in e-mails from unknown senders, the CDC advises. It also urges that you be cautious when entering personal information online and to update antivirus, spyware, firewall, and antispam software regularly.


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