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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ordinance would aid city fire department

Monday, April 14, 2008

Besides the obvious dangers of fire and smoke, there is another threat that Greencastle firefighters have identified when entering a burning structure and they're asking residents for help.

With an increasing number of home builders looking for better and more environmentally smart materials to use, many have turned to a substitute for traditional lumber known as "engineered lumber."

Herein lies the problem for firefighters.

A report on the website Firechief.com estimated that as many as half of all new homes today are constructed using engineered lumber.

Engineered lumber is a combination of wood strands, veneers and other wood products, which makes it different from lumber sawn from a piece of timber. It is used for everything from floor beams to walls.

Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent said that unfortunately for firefighters, engineered lumber burns hotter and is subject to collapse, more so than traditional lumber.

He recalled a recent fire at a home constructed of engineered lumber and the danger it posed for the men and women trying to fight the fire. In this case, the second floor of the home collapsed, but fortunately there were no injuries to the firefighters.

But why does the lumber pose such a danger?

According to the report of Firechief.com, builders who use engineered lumber tend to use less nails and instead use adhesive. Engineered lumber tends to be much lighter, yet stronger, than traditional lumber, and requires fewer nails.

All this can spell disaster when fire heats up a building and adhesives begin to fail and floor joists begin to pull apart, according to Newgent who spoke to members of the city council recently.

With that in mind, Newgent presented the council with an ordinance that will allow the fire department to place stickers on the electric meters of homes with engineered lumber, so when firefighters respond to a fire, they will see the sticker and know the home is built with engineered lumber.

"It's purely a safety thing for our firefighters," Newgent told the council.

He said the fire department could pay for the stickers and place them on the electric boxes. They would probably be made of a reflective material so they could be spotted more easily.

"It's going to affect how we operate," he said.

The council was supportive of the plan and voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance. They will have to approve it a second time at their May meeting for it to become final.

Basically, it requires all new homes and businesses to display the stickers, but it would be voluntary for existing homes and businesses. Based on what the fire chief said, it shouldn't cost the homeowner any money.

"This is a national trend," he said.

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Since there is no cost to either the homeowner or contractor, why not get voluntary compliance from contractors? Why does it require an ordinance?

-- Posted by FAW on Mon, Apr 14, 2008, at 8:55 AM

Unfortunately, FAW, someone will view this as a "loss of personal freedom" and not voluntarily comply. This is too important for the safety of those fighting a fire to leave to "personal choice." It is not a personal choice when others are endangered.

-- Posted by VolunteerFF on Tue, Apr 15, 2008, at 5:09 AM

With or without an ordinance, firefighters should be trained for the possibility of engineered lumber. Then apply those tactics in all house fires. It would take years for these stickers to be applied to a major amount of homes in our area. Why not develope a placard to post at the meter (that reads like ones on semi trailers) displaying all aspects of construction warnings, like basements, truss design, crawl spaces, heat sources, materials etc.? Wouldn't that be more informative than just a sticker?

-- Posted by Xgamer on Tue, Apr 15, 2008, at 6:18 AM

I'll support placing the sticker on my house if they will agree to let it burn down if no one is inside.

We allow the fire department to place to much effort on stopping the fires when there is no risks involved most of the time. Stop spending the money to extinguish the fires, don't risk injuries or death if the building has been determined that it is empty. Just stand there and contain the fire to that one structure.

Of course that would not allow the future disability (tax free) payments to start later in your life.

-- Posted by gunner on Wed, Apr 16, 2008, at 9:25 AM

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