February Luncheon Seminar – Building Construction Fire Safety

The Chicago SFPE chapter meeting on February 10, 2015, was held at the William Tell Holiday Inn in Countryside, IL. This was our annual meeting together with fire service staff. The speakers were William Vogt and Mark Nielsen, with the Chicago Fire Department. William is the District Chief of Special Projects and Mark is the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Fire Suppression and Rescue. There were about 50 attendees.

Per NFPA statistics there are about 3.7 firefighter injuries per 100 structure fires. That number doubles for buildings under construction or vacant. This is a special concern in Chicago, as at least three out of five firefighter deaths have been in construction/vacant/ abandoned-related buildings. Of particular note is the recent with two firefighter deaths and more than a dozen injured in an abandoned warehouse roof collapse on the city’s south side in December 2010. Since 1973, the rule for fighting fires in these situations has been to fight defensively from the outside.

A “Red X” system has been in place in Chicago, where vacant/abandoned buildings are marked with a red X, so that firefighters know better what they’re up against. Since then there have been no injuries in those type of structures, where marked.

Of course the system isn’t perfect, as markings attract vagrants and they are not preferred by owners, banks, politicians, etc. Some other large cities use variations on this system with additional markings to indicate the type of situation that a structure may in, e.g. rehab. The Chicago FD is considering such variations.

The speakers solicited comments and suggestions from fire experts on this topic to help alleviate the potential for injury and death.

Click this link for a copy of the presentation: Abondon Vacant Rehab Structures

(submitted by K. Mniszewski, 2/15/16)