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NFA under USFA control

The appropriations bill, passed by Congress in October, transfers control of the National Fire Academy from FEMA’s Office of Training to the U.S. Fire Administration. The bill contained other appropriations that will benefit the fire service as well: $334,000 for additional instructors and facilities at the NFA and $125,000 for USFA personnel.

After five years of lobbying by the nation’s fire service, the legislation is a major victory, according to Congressman Curt Weldon, chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus: “The voices of America’s fire and life safety personnel have been heard loud and clear. Now the National Fire Academy will return to its rightful place, under the control of the USFA.”

President signs haz-mat study act

President Bush signed into law H R. 4522, the Firefighters’ Safety Study Act, in October. Introduced after a tragic 1988 explosion killed six Kansas City firefighters, the law aims to reduce the dangers to firefighters dealing with hazardous materials.

The bill directs the USFA and a working group to review haz-mat emergencies to analyze what went right and what went wrong as well as gather current information on related products and services and compile that information into a report for the USFA in one year’s time. Also, the working group will meet yearly to update the report and recommend changes. The group will be made up of federal, state, and local agencies and chemical industry’ representatives.

According to Congresswoman Jan Meyers (R-KS), who introduced the bill, its passage ultimately will lead to “safe and adequate response to incidents involving hazardous materials.”

IAFC awards scholarships

The International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation has announced the recipients of its 1990 Scholarship Awards. The S250 scholarships are awarded to active members of the fire service who have demonstrated need, desire, and initiative in pursuit of academic education.

Following is a list of the 1990 Fire Management Scholarships (all are firefighters): Stephen E. Berry’, Banner Elk (NC) Volunteer Fire Department; Donald M. Callan, Waukesha (WI) Fire Department; Victoria Chames, Alameda County (CA) Fire Department; Bryan S. Davis, North East (PA) Fire Department; Michael Edwards, Berwyn Heights (MD) Volunteer Fire Department; Scott M. Heyworth, Swansea (MA) Volunteer Fire Department; Warren C. Jones, Washington State University Fire Department; Russel C. Mitchell, Palm Beach County (FL) Fire Rescue Department; Thomas J. Phillips, Murphy (NC) Volunteer Fire Department; John Remlinger, Salem (OR) Fire Department; Brian Rose, Coeburn (VA) Volunteer Fire Department; Sharon C2. Simmons, Myrtle Grove (FL) Volunteer Fire Department; Guy A. Vallier, Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department; Paul G. Waller, Sandusky (OH) Fire Department; Matthew’ C. Walter, Green I^ane (PA) Fire Department; and Bruce Ziegle, University Park (IL) Fire Department.

Qualifications board established

The National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (NBFSPQ) was officially incorporated in July 1990. The board is designed to improve the quality of life safety and fire protection for fire service personnel. It supports the development and utilization of an NFPA standard on certification and accreditation. Once a standard is published, NBFSPQ will manage the operation of a national certification registry and accreditation program.

In August 1989 the Joint Council of National Fire Service Organizations appointed a select committee to determine the future of a national certification and accreditation program. The NBFSPQ board members represent the various fire service organizations that served on that committee. Chairman of the Board Edward H. McCormack Jr. says, “The implementation of the programs envisioned will objectively measure and provide a means for recognition of fire service professionals’ personal competency and achievement.”

A task force appointed by the board will address the following issues:

  • Fiscal operations including the appropriate transfer of funds relating to professional qualifications.
  • Accreditation procedures of organizations seeking to become nationally recognized certification agencies.
  • National registration of certificates.
  • Annual reaccreditation of those organizations already accredited.
  • Maintenance of records associated with NBFSPQ and its predecessor, the National Professional Qualifications Board.
  • A national conference for the purpose of broad-based commentary on the future of accreditation and certification procedures related to fire service personnel professional qualification standards.

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Tough arson law in Canada

For more than 10 years Canadian police chiefs and fire marshals have been campaigning for tougher arson laws. Their determination has paid off: As of July 1990, Bill C-53 was enacted, which amends the Criminal Code provisions on arson.

The new law redefines arson to include damage caused by explosives and damage to all property including motor vehicles. Possession of incendiary material for arson purposes is now an offense that carries up to a five-year prison term. A conviction of arson caused by negligence also can carry a five-year sentence.

According to Vince Del Buono of Canada’s Department of Justice, this now places an obligation on building owners to meet fire laws. If a fire occurs in a building as a result of negligence in meeting fire standards, the landlord can be convicted of criminal charges.

Penalties also have been increased for other arson offenses. Arson to defraud insurers now carries a possible 10-year prison term. Arson involving homes or causing bodily harm to others could result in life imprisonment.

According to Gordon MacKay of the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics. more than 10,000 arson offenses are reported in Canada each year. More than 1,200 firefighters have been injured from arson fires in the past five years.

The Honourable Kim Campbell, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, says, “This new legislation makes public safety and protection of firefighters a top priority and will significantly reduce fatalities and injuries caused by deliberately and accidentally set fires.”

Electrician found guilty of faulty work

Richard Salz, an electrician in East Haven, Connecticut has been convicted of doing faulty electric work that resulted in a fatal fire. Salz was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison, eligible for parole in five years.

According to Fred Brow, fire marshal/deputy chief of the East Haven Fire Department, the fire occurred in a single-family, Cape Cod-style home in East Haven in December 1988. When firefighters arrived the fire was fully involved. Three of the occupants had escaped but one 12-year-old boy was still trapped inside. Rescue attempts were unsuccessful, and he died in the fire. No firefighters were injured.

Brow says the fire originated in the finished basement playroom. It began at the base of the paneled west wall, where an electric heater was permanently mounted. The heater ignited the wall and fire traveled quickly up the stairs. The lack of a door at the top of the basement stairs contributed to fire spread, Brow adds.

A 15-hour investigation revealed that Salz had wired the 110-volt heater for 220 volts and had grounded it using two independent circuit breakers instead of a connected breaker. There were also signs of a thermostat malfunction. Salz had not obtained a permit to do the electrical work, according to Brow.

Following the investigation the East Haven police and fire departments jointly charged Salz with second-degree manslaughter. He was found guilty and sentenced on August 10, 1990. Brow believes this case sets a precedent in the United States.

NVFC offers sprinkler kit

“Don’t Give Fire a Home” is a resource kit designed to promote the acceptance and use of home fire sprinkler systems. Volunteer fire departments and anyone else interested can obtain the kit through the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Resource Center.

Most fire deaths occur in oneand two-family dwellings. The NVFC is campaigning to ensure that developers, builders, and realtors understand the life-saving benefits of sprinkler systems. Since they deal with the public at the point of sale, they can greatly influence the decision to install sprinklers. The kit contains information to aid discussion with these groups.

Two camera-ready public service advertisements are also included to encourage sprinkler use in both new’ construction and existing homes. Fact sheets and other material are designed to help fire department personnel respond to questions about residential sprinkler use.

Copies of the kit were distributed to NVFC members at no cost and are available to non-NVFC members for SI8.95. Orders must be prepaid – Virginia residents add 4 ½ percent sales tax.

Send kit requests to: Don’t Give Fire a Home, NVFC Resource Center, P.O. Box 25215, Alexandria, VA 22313-5215.