News Briefs

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Firefighters Participate in CAF Training Demonstration
Firefighters evaluate the performance of compressed air foam (CAF) during a seminar/burn demonstration. Some 35 firefighters from the Tri-County area around Midland, Michigan; Detroit; and Sarnia, Ontario, participated. The training evolution, part of a national foam tour program, focused on CAF technology from the perspectives of systems engineering and fire suppression. Pierce Manufacturing Inc., Ansul Inc., and Hypro® Corporation sponsored the event.

FEMA/USFA Firefighter Assistance grant awards approach $50 million
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) had awarded $49.5 million in grants under the Assistance to Firefighters Program as of press time.

The most current rounds of awards include the following:

  • $6.1 million to 190 U.S. fire departments. More than $3.3 million of the funds in this round are to be used for firefighting equipment, $2.1 million for personal protective equipment, $479,678 for wellness and fitness programs, and $158,400 for vehicles.
  • $15.3 million in grants to 320 U.S. fire departments in the fifth round of awards. More than $11.5 million of these funds were for personal protective equipment, $2.1 million for firefighting equipment, $826,549 for wellness and fitness programs, $742,468 for vehicles, and $108,465 for fire prevention.

Also, $2 million in grants for fire and burn prevention programs were awarded as follows:

  • The International Association of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation—$750,000 for burn prevention, treatment, and general fire prevention programs.
  • The National Fire Protection Association—$500,000 for the Risk WatchT fire prevention program for school-age children.
  • The National Safe Kids Council—$750,000 for fire prevention programs directed at children nationally and in 10 major U.S. metropolitan areas.

These grants were awarded under the noncompetitive portion of the Assistance to Firefighters Program.

The $100 million in grants approved by Congress for this fiscal year was to have been distributed by September 30. The grant applications are being processed by the U.S. Fire Administration and reviewed by representatives from seven fire service organizations. In each case, the federal grants will be supplemented by local funds. An up-to-date list of grant recipients is posted on the USFA Web site at

Orlando (FL) city officials initiate independent investigation of firefighters’ health records
Orlando, Florida, city commissioners have unanimously voted to initiate an independent investigation into firefighters’ medical records amid allegations that the firefighters were not told they had serious illnesses, including hepatitis C, even though their medical tests indicated they have had serious health problems for some time. Initially, 13 firefighters had filed a class action suit against the city. At press time, the number of parties was 30.

The investigation would be conducted by an independent review board, whose members would examine not only the health records of the firefighters involved in the lawsuit but all firefighter records dating back to 1984.

Firefighters would have to give consent to have their records reviewed.

The firefighter’s union, however, has advised the city’s firefighters not to sign the release forms the city mailed to them. The union claims that the language in the release form would allow the city to make public the information within the firefighters’ health records and said it did not agree to the language contained in the form.

Firefighters wishing to be part of the investigation had until August 30 to submit their medical records.

Recently, A.C. Walker, brother of the chief of the Orlando (FL) Fire Department, joined the other retired and current city employees in their lawsuit against the city. Walker, who has retired from the department, has hepatitis C and claims that the city’s medical clinic detected symptoms of the disease 23 years ago but never told him.

In addition, the widow of an Orlando firefighter joined the class action suit, alleging that her husband, who died of a heart attack, was never told of abnormal EKGs, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol years before his heart attack.
(Source: WESH, Aug 13 and Aug 21, Aug 28)

Energized yellow striping on roads can present electrical hazard for emergency responders
The Westbury, Long Island (NY), Fire Department is alerting responders to a potentially hazardous situation members of the department encountered while responding to an alarm for primary downed electrical wires and burning in the roadway after a rainstorm.

The assistant chief, investigating a buzzing noise on the ground near his feet, observed what appeared to be blue electric arcing intermittently crossing a crack in the asphalt at least 100 feet from the area where the downed primary wire was lying in the road and arcing. The crack in the asphalt also cut through the double-yellow centerline striping, causing a separation approximately one inch wide across the width of the striping. All emergency response personnel were immediately advised of the hazard and were directed to stay out of the roadway.

An investigation after the conclusion of the incident revealed that the downed primary electric wire had made contact with the double-yellow striping in the center of the roadway, causing approximately 25 feet of the yellow striping to burn and melt. Residue from the melted yellow striping exposed what appeared to be the cause of the current flow: The yellow striping had a metal foil backing running throughout its entire length and width. Apparently, the downed power line energized the yellow striping; the electric current then traveled along the metal foil backing for at least the distance of the crack in the roadway and then continued for an undetermined distance. When the current reached the crack in the stripe and the roadway, the current jumped across the opening and caused the arcing condition. It was not determined whether the rain conditions increased the electrical conductivity of the yellow striping.

The striping is not the type painted on the road surface. It is rolled out and usually heated so that it adheres to the road surface. Its bright yellow reflective surface is rough to the touch.

This incident was reported to the Nassau County Department of Public Works, which indicated that it was not aware of this hazard. The department also said that this striping material is used on many roads throughout the county and that it will consult with the manufacturer of the yellow striping with regard to this matter.

If this striping material is used in your jurisdiction, you and your department members, victims, and pedestrians may be subjected to the electrical hazard wherever downed power lines may be present, such as at auto accidents; during wind, rain, snow, and ice storms; at electrical equipment overloads or failure; and at building collapses.

In such situations, warn everyone working at the incident scene, and do not let anyone enter the affected area. The incident safety officer must assess the injury potential and report this information to the incident commander; appropriate scene security and safety measures must be implemented.
(Source:, Wayne Ludewig, editor)

FDNY fire officials to reprogram new digital radios
New York City fire officials will reprogram the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) inventory of some 4,000 handheld new digital radios to an analog system, according to a New York Times report.

The radios have been a source of conflict between the firefighters’ union and department management. Amid charges that the radios had not been sufficiently tested in realistic conditions and reports that firefighters’ distress calls were not heard by firefighters on the scene, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen pulled the radios from service in March. The fire department reverted to using its old radios. The analog system-programmed radios will be put into service after they have been tested at the FDNY Fire Academy and have been proven to work satisfactorily.

Ultimately, after all problems have been addressed and resolved, it is anticipated that the radios will be changed back to digital technology. Before then, firefighters will be trained in the use of digital radios. The digital mode, officials say, is especially suited to high-rise firefighting. n

(Source: Kevin Flynn,, Aug. 7)

Arsonist gets life for setting Georgia church fires
Jay Scott Ballinger of Indiana was sentenced to life in prison without parole for setting five church fires in Georgia in 1998 and 1999. Twenty-seven-year-old volunteer firefighter Loy Williams was killed and two firefighters were injured in one of the fires, when a roof fell on them. Ballinger had already been incarcerated for setting 26 church fires in eight states.

Personality and gender factors in firefighter injuries, study says
Among the findings of a University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management/City of Minneapolis study on firefighter safety was that introversion leads to higher frequencies of bodily harm. According to Researcher Hui Liao of the Carlson School of Management, firefighters with this personality trait may be less likely to call for help. “Firefighters perform more safely and effectively if they cooperate well with each other,” Liao explains. “Therefore, those who are more reluctant to interact with team members may seek less help from coworkers during an emergency, thereby exposing themselves to greater risks.” The study also revealed the following:

  • Female firefighters reported 33 percent more injuries than male firefighters, a finding researchers say might be the result of cultural influences—specifically viewing the reporting of minor injuries by males as a sign of weakness.
  • Firefighters who tended to ignore safety rules and regulations had accidents more frequently and suffered more severe injuries than firefighters who conscientiously followed safety rules.

Researchers, in addition to Liao, included Richard Arvey and Richard Butler at the Carlson School of Management and Steve M. Nutting of the City of Minneapolis. The study involved analyzing data pertaining to injuries suffered by 171 firefighters from a major Midwestern U.S. city over a 12-year period.

The findings of the study were published in the July 2001 issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, an American Psychological Association journal.

Study finds majority of firefighter subjects overweight
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (July 2001) says that of 96 full-time firefighters surveyed in a U.S. city, 84 percent were found to be overweight (13 percent obese). A number of survey participants also had higher than acceptable levels of cholesterol, and almost a quarter had high blood pressure.

The findings, researchers point out, could have significance for firefighters’ health and safety, particularly in relation to heart disease. Cardiovascular events have been a leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty fatalities in recent years.

The full study is on pages 807-809 of the July issue of the journal.

Retirement age for federal firefighters is now 57
The Federal Firefighters Retirement Age Fairness Act, which raises the retirement age for federal firefighters from 55 to 57, was signed into law by President Bush in August. Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-CA) had introduced the bill in the House of Representatives in January. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored the legislation in the Senate. The bill was approved unanimously in both chambers of Congress.

Senate passes Interior spending bill; fire programs funded
The Senate has passed by voice vote an $18.5 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 Interior spending bill (H.R. 2217). The bill includes $13.315 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program and $10 million for the Department of Interior Rural Fire Assistance program (RFA). These funding levels were approved in the House version, which passed in June. The Interior bill, which Congress must pass each year, funds such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Commission of Fine Arts.

The funding in the Senate bill exceeds the $18.1 billion requested in the President’s budget but is less than the $18.9 billion bill passed by the House of Representatives. The bill will now go to a conference committee, where the differences in the versions will be addressed.

The VFA program, administered by the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with the State Foresters, is a 50/50 matching grant program for fire departments in communities with populations of fewer than 10,000. The program was funded at $2 million in FY 1999 and at $3.25 million in FY 2000.

The objective of the Department of Interior RFA program is to enhance the fire protection capabilities of rural fire districts in the wildland urban interface. The program will enable districts to implement training, purchase equipment, and conduct prevention activities on a 90/10 cost-share basis.

For more information on the VFA program, visit <>, or contact your State Forester. For more information on the RFA program, visit <>.

Pennsylvania fire departments to receive incident reporting software
Fire departments in Pennsylvania will now be able to track and report fires and other emergencies and exposures to infectious diseases by using new software they will be receiving from the Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC), according to Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker, who chairs the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council. The Office, Schweiker says, will purchase more than 2,400 software licenses and maintenance agreements. The $700,000 funding for the Pennsylvania Fire Information Reporting System (PennFIRS) program is in the hepatitis C education and prevention line item in the state’s 2000-01 budget.

The PennFIRS Task Force has been assisting the OSFC to develop the statewide fire information reporting system for the past five years. Fire departments from across the state assisted the Task Force in a number of pilot studies, ranging from a paper version of the new National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) software to using state-of-the-art computer software based on the old NFIRS (4.1) protocols and participating in beta testing of the new NFIRS software.

For additional information, contact Marko Bourne, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, at (717) 651-2139.

Bill would create retirement accounts for volunteer firefighters
Congressman John Larson (D-CT) has introduced and Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) has cosponsored the Volunteer Firefighter’s Relief Act (H.R. 1870), which would permit volunteer firefighters to make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $500 per year in “qualified firefighter savings accounts.” This would be in addition to contributions to other IRAs.

Web site offers guidance in college fire safety
The new Web site <>, underwritten by the Victaulic family of companies, offers parents, students, and college administrators information on safety hazards in dorms and residential life-safety technologies. In the future, the site will include a news section, video reports, and a database.

NFPA offers Internet training on bloodborne pathogen safety
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) site > nfpabbp< offers a 45-minute interactive training program for North American firefighters on universal precautions to minimize exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The OSHA-compliant course is offered by

NFPA Standards Council issues 2002 edition of NEC®
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards Council has issued the 2002 edition of the National Electrical CodeT (NECT), effective August 3, 2001. The new edition includes more than 300 significant changes to the 1999 edition and incorporates the following new articles: administrative provisions; transient voltage surge suppression; sensitive electronic equipment; fuel cells; and receptacles, cord connectors, and attachment plugs.

Among modifications to the code are the positioning of the metric system in front of inch/pound units and the replacing of soft conversions with hard conversions (rounded metric numbers) where exact number usage would seem stilted.

Legislation would require truss warning signs on new buildings in New York state
The New York state legislature has passed a bill that would require a sign/symbol to be posted on the exterior of new buildings with truss constructions within the state. The objective of the legislation is to save firefighters’ lives, since truss constructions subjected to fire often fail quickly and without warning. If signed by Gov. George Pataki, the bill would become law January 1, 2002.

Line-of-Duty Deaths, 2001
August 10: Chief James Pelton, 58, of the Mason (MI) Fire Department, was killed in a motor vehicle accident while en route to a meeting.

August 13: Firefighter Ronald T. Kreamer, 34, of the Frontier Volunteer Fire Company, Niagara Falls, New York, collapsed from an undetermined cause during overhaul operations at a structure fire.

August 18: Firefighter/EMT Richard D. Shoaf, Jr., 43, of the Swarthmore (PA) Fire and Protection Association, became ill and collapsed of an apparent heart attack at the fire station while preparing to respond to a medical emergency.

August 19: Firefighter Robert Hazlett, 52, of the Odell (OR) Rural Fire Protection District, died from injuries sustained when the water tender he was returning to the fire station after servicing left the roadway and struck a tree head-on after its front right tire blew out.

August 21: Firefighter Stephen A. Petrusik, 52, of Lansdowne (MD) Volunteer Firemen’s Association #1, reported to his station for routine duties and collapsed in his truck on the apron of the station. He was treated and transported to the hospital, where he died of a cause still to be determined.

August 27: Contract Pilots Larry Groff, 55, and Lars Stratte, 45, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Sacramento, California, were killed as a result of a collision between their air tankers.

August 28: Firefighter Michael Gorumba, 27, of the Fire Department of New York, collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack while fighting a three-alarm fire at an auto body shop.

August 29: Captain Darryl J. Dzugen, 35, of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Tampa, Florida, was participating in physical fitness activities at his station when he collapsed (cause still to be determined). He was transported to the hospital where he later died.

Source: National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Database, United States Fire Administration.

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