On December 2, 2016 a fire in Oakland, California resulted in the death of 36 people. The City of Oakland Fire Chief cited several factors for the loss of life. These included an impeded escape process, lack of fire protection systems, and the fact that the building was “like a maze.”
Sadly, fires resulting in loss of life are nothing new in the United States. Like the fire in Oakland, most of the fatalities in large fires are the result of unsafe conditions prior to the incident.
In February 2003, the Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island killed 100 and injured 230. Pyrotechnics caused the fire at a Great White concert but toxic building materials and blocked exits were the primary cause of injury and death.
In March 1990, the Happy Land Social Club Fire in New York City resulted in the death of 87 who could not escape from locked or blocked exits.
In November 1943, the Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston, Massachusetts killed 492 people. Side exit doors were bolted shut to prevent people from leaving without paying, other doors opened inward making them useless, and only a single revolving door was located at the front of the building.
In March 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire killed 146 in New York City. The youngest victims were two 14 year old girls working in the garment factory. Factory owners had locked exit doors to prevent employees from taking unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft. The victims were overcome by smoke or jumped from the building to escape the fire.
Beyond these incidents which caused multiple fatalities, how big is the fire problem? According to the National Fire Protection Association there were over 1.3 million fires in the United States in 2015. These fires resulted in 3,280 civilian fire deaths, over 15,000 injuries, and $14.3 billion in property damage.
Nacogdoches Fire & Rescue is dedicated to preventing fires in our community and to reducing the danger of fires when they do occur. Throughout the year the City of Nacogdoches conducts surveys, inspections, and reviews buildings throughout the city. These visits by firefighters and inspectors are an essential part of our community’s safety efforts. Our goal is to decrease the number and severity of fires, improve the safety of the public and firefighters, and to maintain our excellent insurance rating (which reduces the cost of property insurance). During the surveys, firefighters are also enhancing their knowledge of current structures to ensure we can respond quickly and efficiently when fires do occur.
Despite our best prevention efforts, fires are going to happen. However, simple changes can significantly improve survivability and reduce the danger caused by fire.
Firefighters and inspectors are looking for several things when they conduct surveys and inspections. For example, they are there to ensure buildings are being used as designed, safety features such as alarms, extinguishers, exits, fire walls and electrical systems are properly maintained, products such as stoves, extension cords, heaters and machinery are being used as intended, escape routes are free of obstacles and doors and windows easily opened, and chemicals are stored properly with dangerous conditions minimized.
The City of Nacogdoches is committed to working with our citizens, businesses, and visitors to prevent fires and maintain the safest city possible. Nacogdoches Fire & Rescue responds to over 4,500 calls each year involving fires, motor vehicle or industrial accidents, medical emergencies, dangerous conditions and hazardous materials incidents from five fire stations.
Fire and Rescue personnel also engage in various activities throughout the year to be prepared to respond when needed. In addition to conducting surveys and inspections, the department maintains over 1,500 fire hydrants, fire stations, apparatus and equipment to ensure that the department is ready to respond night or day. To request information or schedule an inspection, call us at 936-559-2541 or find us online at www.ci.nacogdoches.tx.us .