I received an article today about a fire at the Evelyn Gardens apartment complex in Albany, California, which resulted in $400,000 in damage and one fatality.  In the article, Fire Chief Marc McGinn is quoted several times in regard to apartment entry doors.  Here’s an excerpt:

” ‘Closing doors on fires can save lives,’ he said. ‘If there is a fire in your unit, and you must leave the premises, close the door. It confines the fire and starves it of oxygen. Closing the door behind you is the most important thing.’

A family fleeing the fire at Evelyn Gardens left the door open, which allowed the fire to spread from the second to the third floor, and engulf two hallways, said McGinn.

At least one other resident of the apartment complex passed the open door, saw the fire inside, and failed to close it, he added.

‘The most important thing you can ever remember about a fire, if it’s in your room, close that door,’ McGinn said. ‘Every door that you can close, you will confine that fire. Just by closing the door, it would have bought us 10 minutes. We need to get the message out to apartment owners about this.’

McGinn said the Albany Fire Department will be sending letters to apartment owners about closing doors, and other steps to take in case of fires, and is working with Gateview to ensure that every unit in the large complex has self-closing doors.”

Whenever I see a story like this, I consider it an opportunity to tell one more person about the requirement for annual fire door assembly inspections.  The 2010 California Fire Code states that fire doors must be maintained in accordance with NFPA 80-2007, which requires the annual inspection as part of the fire door maintenance.  I contacted Chief McGinn to discuss the requirement, and I followed up with more information as requested.  He said that most fire departments are probably unaware of the inspection requirement.  Who can blame them, really?  It’s not specifically stated in the fire code…you have to go to the referenced standard to find out.

Those of us who look at doors on a daily basis know what kind of condition many fire and egress doors are in.  The inspection requirements gives us a tool to help bring those doors into compliance.  But we still have a very long way to go in our efforts to increase awareness.  If you see an opportunity like this, advise the fire department about the value of annual fire door inspections.  Or send me the information and I’ll be happy to do it.  Fire doors hinder the spread of smoke and fire, but they can’t perform if they’re not properly maintained.

And because Chief McGinn was kind enough to hear me out regarding the stuff that I’m passionate about, I’ll share with you what he’s passionate about – photoelectric smoke detectors.  You can learn more in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Photos: San Francisco Chronicle

I’ve checked my smoke detectors to make sure that they’re photoelectric detectors. Will you?

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