News in Brief: October 2019

CPSC warns of residential elevator hazard

Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), sent a letter dated August 6 to U.S. state governors advising of a “serious hazard” associated with residential elevators—excessive space between the elevator car door/gate and the hoistway or swing door (hoistway door). In some installations, the space between the elevator car door and the hoistway door is large enough to allow children to fit between the closed doors. The elevators are in residential buildings. If a child becomes trapped in the space when the elevator is called to another floor, the child may be dragged inside the hoistway and crushed against the next floor’s sill. The CPSC staff is aware of nine incidents, including five fatalities, involving entrapments between the car door and hoistway door of residential elevators and a sixth where a toddler was trapped beneath the elevator.

The current version of the relevant safety standard, ASME A17.1-2016 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, limits the space between the car door and the hoistway door to less than four inches. When reviewing a petition for a federal standard in 2017, the CPSC concluded that the four-inch standard would adequately address the risk of injury and would be widely complied with. However, more recent information indicates that some states have not updated building codes to incorporate the 2016 standard and other states are not inspecting residential elevator installations to ensure that the relevant standard is being adhered to.

The CPSC issued a safety alert on August 1 ( to consumers about the hidden hazard of residential elevators. The CPSC is urging consumers to have a qualified elevator inspector examine their home elevator for this dangerous gap and to inspect it to the latest ASME safety standard.

Note: Dangerous gaps can be eliminated by placing space guards on the back of the room access door or installing an electronic monitoring device that deactivates the elevator when a child is detected in the gap. Consumers should contact the elevator manufacturer or an elevator installer to obtain these critical safety devices.

The CPSC will continue its investigations. Questions may be directed to Acting Director for the Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction Duane Boniface at (301) 504-7671 or at

IAFC elects officers for 2019-2020

Chief Gary Ludwig, Champaign (IL) Fire Department, was installed on August 8 as the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) president and chairman of the board. Other IAFC officers installed for 2019-2020 were the following: Chief Richard Carrizzo, Southern Platte (MO) Fire Protection District, second vice president, and Chief Steven Locke, Burlington (VT) Fire Department, treasurer. Immediate Past President Chief Dan Eggleston, Albemarle County (VA) Department of Fire Rescue, will continue to serve on the IAFC executive committee.

In his acceptance remarks, Ludwig noted: “You’ll hear much over the next year about my program to reduce firefighter cardiac deaths, called ‘If You Don’t Feel Well–Don’t Make It Your Farewell.’”

Senate bill proposes tax-deferred volunteer benefits

In July, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Ben Cardin introduced the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act, which would make contributions to Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAP) for volunteer emergency personnel tax deferred, guaranteed, and portable. Approximately 20 percent of volunteer firefighters are enrolled in a LOSAP plan. S. 2214 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Best practices for wildfire adaptation and resilience

“Current approaches to responding to wildfires are not working, especially as fire seasons are getting warmer and longer. In many fire-susceptible landscapes, rebuilding after wildfire leaves communities in a constant state of vulnerability.” This is the key point of a research paper published in Nature Sustainability in August, according to Dave McWethy, assistant professor of earth sciences in Montana State University’s College of Letters and Science. McWethy and scientists from several other institutions across the United States and Canada participated in the project, funded by a 2017 grant from the federal Joint Fire Science Program.

The grant’s focus was to identify actions that promote resilience in human and natural systems. The core research team, in addition to McWethy, included University of Montana scientists Philip Higuera, Alex Metcalf, and Libby Metcalf and U.S. Forest Service scientist Carol Miller.

Following are some of the observations and suggestions contained in the paper.

Wildfires in the West are becoming inevitable, and communities should not just rebuild. “Some may need to find ways to adapt or even transform themselves to be more resilient to the inevitability of wildfires.”

Initiatives for promoting resilience to wildfire are inadequate because they are “limited in scope and scale, insufficiently funded, hindered by agency constraints, and lack urgency and broad public support.”

The first step in living with and protecting against wildfires is to acknowledge that fire is inevitable in western North American landscapes, which historically were shaped by fires. Efforts to control and stop them are making communities more vulnerable to severe and destructive burns, especially in a changing climate.

Montecito, California, which suffered a series of severe fires in the 1960s, was cited as an example of a community that took steps that helped to decrease property damage when future wildfires occurred. The researchers noted that the Montecito Fire Protection District took steps toward “adaptive resilience” including creating defensible space around homes (a space without woody fuels), ”hardening” homes by using fire-resistant building materials, reducing fuels across the larger landscape through prescribed fire and other treatments, and implementing detailed fire planning and response outreach programs. These practices reduced the damage caused to homes in Montecito by the Thomas Fire in 2017.

Similar practices could be tailored to fit varying ecosystems and communities, making adaptive and transformative resilience more widespread.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for living with wildfire. In some places, it will make sense to continue defending structures and other human values. Elsewhere, fighting wildfire will be futile given warming patterns, so people must adapt. In other instances, people will have to entirely re-envision development patterns given the realities of wildfire.”


Montana State University. “Best practices for wildfire adaptation and resilience.” ScienceDaily, 20 August 2019. <>.

David B McWethy, Tania Schoennagel, Philip E Higuera, Meg Krawchuk, Brian J Harvey, Elizabeth C Metcalf, Courtney Schultz, Carol Miller, Alexander L Metcalf, Brian Buma, Arika Virapongse, Judith C Kulig, Richard C Stedman, Zak Ratajczak, Cara R Nelson, Crystal Kolden. “Rethinking resilience to wildfire.” Nature Sustainability, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0353-8.

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July 16. Lieutenant Neil B. Cope, 46, North Belle (PA) Vernon Volunteer Fire Department: cause and nature of death under investigation.

July 21. Driver/Operator Jeff Stroble, 46, City of Roswell (NM) Fire Department: injuries sustained in an explosion on July 5 while preparing the community for its annual July 4 fireworks show.

July 29. Firefighter Yaroslav Katkov, 29, CAL FIRE, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Sacramento, CA: medical emergency suffered while on a training hike with his crew on July 28; unknown at press time.

August 6. Chief/Public Safety Director James E. Sommers, 40, Suwannee Fire Rescue, Live Oak, FL: injuries sustained when his motorcycle was struck by an automobile while returning from a Suwannee County Commission Meeting.

August 10. Firefighter Norman Edward Klenow, 78, East Tawas (MI) Fire Department: heart attack.

August 14. Assistant Chief Walter Wagaman, 46, Buchanan Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Orrtanna, PA: injuries sustained on August 2 when ejected from the apparatus passenger seat while responding to a call.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

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