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Fire Prevention Laws, how far is too far?

Nov 26, 2016   #1
Hello Essay Forum Community,
Below is a rough draft of my Final Research Project for English 102. I'm still very new to on-line learning, so I'm not sure if this is the proper procedure for doing this. However, any assistance anyone would offer for a better paper would be greatly appreciated.

Daniel Grindle
English 102/First Year Composition
Lesson 11: Rough Draft of Research Project
Adam Korman

Under Fire Why So Much Controversy Over Fire Prevention Laws

My interest in fire prevention and fire protection began early in my career as a firefighter. I've had some fairly close calls over my career, but one stands out as particularly memorable.

It was, to steal a phrase from Snoopy, one of America's greatest living novelists, "a dark and stormy night". I was assigned to Ladder Company 204 in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. We were just finishing a low level "routine" medical emergency call when we noticed a glow in the sky to the west. It was a tell-tale sign that we had seen before, something was on fire, something big. We jumped on the truck and raced west, following the column of smoke and red glow. We called alarm and told them that we could see a structure fire to the west, and that judging from the size we upgraded to a working first alarm fire. The dispatcher came back and told us that she had just started getting 9-1-1 calls from panicked on-lookers reporting the fire and gave us the address.

The address of the fire was an enormous apartment complex about a mile from our location. There were about twenty 3-story buildings with about 30 apartments in each building.

Because of the cold inversion layer, by the time we arrived on scene, the smoke from the fire had enveloped the entire block and we couldn't see anything beyond about 50 feet. We couldn't even tell which building was on fire at first. After some running around looking for the fire, we finally found which building was on fire and determined that the fire was in the top floor on the east side of the building. By now, several other engine and one other ladder company had arrived and we began our attack. My company was assigned to go to the roof and begin ventilation operations. That includes taking chain saws to the roof and cutting large holes in the roof to let the super-heated gases and smoke out of the structure to make the interior tenable for survivors and make it easier for firefighters on the interior to see and fight fire.

When we arrived, the fire was fairly small and contained to one or two apartments. We thought we had a pretty good handle on this fire and that it would be an easy firefight. By the time we got our ladders up, collected our tools and took them to the roof, the fire had extended to the entire east side of the structure. By the time we started cutting ventilation holes, the fire had extended to the middle of the structure. I cut several holes, but could never get ahead of the fire. I would no sooner cut a hole (I was cutting approximately 6X6 foot holes) and the fire would extend out of the ventilation hole and we would be facing 30 foot tornadoes of flame roaring out.

We kept moving west, trying to get ahead of this fire, but it moved so fast, almost unnaturally fast. We finally ran out of roof, never having gotten ahead of the fire, and made the decision to evacuate the roof. We were in real danger now. The fire was all around us, burning through the roof in several places and collapsing in several areas. We barely made it off the roof as it finally collapsed into the structure with a roar, sending burning embers and debris all over the neighborhood.

We worked that fire all night, never getting a handle on it. The structure burned to the ground. It burned so hot, so fast that we couldn't stop it, we could only keep other surrounding structures from burning.

Ultimately, the fire completely destroyed one building and seriously damaged two others. It ended up costing several million dollars and displaced over 100 people from their homes.

Because I was part of the first arriving unit, I was interviewed by the fire investigator who was trying to determine the cause and origin of the fire. I asked him why the fire could burn so hot and so fast and why the sprinkler system did not contain the fire in its incipient stage. That's when I got some fairly startling information.

In our jurisdiction, we comply with the "Uniform Building Codes", which is the nationwide standard for building codes. The UBC was first published in 1927 by the International Conference of Building Officials, which was based in Whittier, California. It was intended to promote public safety and provided standardized requirements for safe construction which would not vary from city to city as had previously been the case.[1] These codes include standards on building techniques, plumbing, electrical, materials, and other building laws. They also include fire safety and prevention codes.

According to the code, any apartment building 3 stories or more must have fire sprinklers. However, many builders have found a loophole in the code. According to the code, basements do not count as a story, so many builders dig an enormous hole and build "basement" apartments. The first floor is thus considered basement and even though it is occupied as a residential apartment, does not need to be protected with fire sprinklers. Then the builder can put two more stories above ground, and the building is considered a two story building. This saves the builder a ton of money in initial building costs, maintenance costs, and repair costs.

The loopholes in fire prevention laws and fire safety laws must be closed in order to make modern buildings safer and prevent tragedies like the Station Nightclub fire. Efforts to close this loophole have met with resistance from builders and law makers who are concerned about the costs of installing and maintaining fire control systems in new buildings and the costs of retro-fitting existing buildings with sprinkler systems and alarm systems.

While I understand the need to keep costs down and maintain an acceptable profit margin, this should not come at the cost of human lives. Many communities across the nation are struggling with the costs versus benefits of fire sprinkler laws, not just in residential homes but older commercial structures as well. A brief search of the internet yielded dozens of articles from local newspapers across the country that show a growing trend among local and state governments struggling to keep housing and building costs affordable while providing safer homes and businesses.

While many builders are concerned with the cost to add sprinklers to single family residences, the evidence shows that this cost is actually quite affordable. "Fire safety officials said building costs are minimal compared with the benefit of saving lives. Prince George's County has had the mandate since 1992. A 15-year study showed that no fire fatalities occurred in any of the sprinkler-protected homes in the county, while 101 people died in fires in homes without the devices." [2]

Many builders have found that the cost of adding a sprinkler system to a new home build is only about $1,500. Potential savings to a homeowner and insurance company can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars when a fire is snuffed out in its incipient stage by sprinklers.

The costs of putting sprinkler and other fire control systems into a larger, more complex commercial structures including churches, malls, and night clubs are admittedly quite a bit higher, but these costs are also minimal when you consider the potential costs of human lives.

On February 20, 2003, a fire occurred at a nightclub in Warwick, Rhode Island during a rock concert. "The fire was caused by pyrotechnics...which ignited flammable sound insulation polyurethane foam in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage. A fast-moving fire with intense black smoke engulfed the club in 5˝ minutes. Video footage of the fire shows its ignition, rapid growth, the billowing smoke that quickly made escape impossible, and the exit blockage that further hindered evacuation. The toxic smoke, heat and the stampede of people toward the exits killed 100; 230 were injured." [3] Ultimately, the costs of litigation, medical treatment for victims, and lawsuit settlements ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

It may seem contradictory, but while most modern buildings are far safer, research into modern fire behavior suggests that newer buildings tend to burn hotter and faster than older, legacy construction. Modern buildings are more weather resistant, which creates an "oven-like" effect during a fire. Also, most modern homes and businesses are filled with Most homes and businesses are now filled modern, synthetic materials which burn hotter and faster. A couch (or other furnishings) bought from a furniture store like Ikea (or anyplace really) is filled with polyurethane foam (PUF), which is literally one molecule away from being gasoline. [4] As a matter of fact, many firefighters and insurance industry folks call PUF "solid gasoline". It burns so hot and fast, that after it is consumed in a fire, many times, the only evidence left is a puddle that appears to be a gasoline or other flammable liquid stain.

In conclusion, recent research suggests that modern buildings and modern furnishings burn differently (hotter and faster) than legacy construction and furnishings. The increase in the amount of high and low density plastic goods, highly flammable furnishings, and other building techniques/materials in the modern household lead to fires that burn extremely hot and very quickly. It may be time to re-think the fire safety and prevention laws and close the loopholes that allow builders to put lives in danger.

Works Cited:

[1] Handbook to the Uniform Building Code: an Illustrative Commentary. Whittier, Calif.: International Conference of Building Officials, c1988.
[2] Donovan, Doug, "Sprinkler Laws Debate Renewed", Baltimore Sun online edition, 1/2/16, web.
[3] en.wikipedia/wiki/The_Station_nightclub_fire web.
[4] klausbruckner/blog/fire-hazards-of-polyurethane-foam/
Jensen, Edythe, "Controversy Over Home Fire Sprinklers Heats Up", AZCentral, Arizona Republic On-line Ed., 7/3/2010, web.
Ott, Douglas C., Fire Investigator, Principles and Practice to NFPA 921 and 1033, 3rd Ed., Chapter 9, Legal Considerations, Jones and Bartlett Learning.
Forsman, Douglas P., et.al., "NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator, 2014 Edition", NFPA, print

Holt [Contributor] 1505  
Nov 27, 2016   #2
Hi Daniel, I see a number of problems with your research paper. The first is that the paper is using the first person perspective in writing. Normally, a research paper requires the author to be detached from the presentation of the discussion so the second or third person perspective is used most of the time. Second, in order to deliver a truly authoritative paper, you must never use Wikipedia as a primary source of information. That is because Wikipedia information is open to public editing and is therefore not considered by teachers and professors as academic in content. Third, There is no clear thesis statement being addressed in the opening statement of your essay.

In your opening statement, you simply say talk about how your interest in fire prevention developed. It is only 2 sentences long. In a proper research paper, your opening statement should be at least 5 sentences long. Towards the end of the paragraph, you have to present the actual topic that you will be discussing in the essay. So if it is about fire prevention laws, what about it do you think goes too far? When you state the basis of your discussion, you can begin to present your evidence based upon accurate and academic research in the rest of the essay paragraphs. Include the logical and chronological order of discussion that will be seen in your research paper to serve as a guide for your reader. Your concluding paragraph should then wrap up the presentation of the evidence and either support your opinion or ask the reader to consider the evidence in order to come to a personal decision.

Another word of caution, Snoopy is a comic strip written by Charles Schulz. Snoopy is the dog in the comics who thinks he is an author. He is not a published author and he is not a real person. He is a comic strip dog. Do not use that reference in your essay. When writing research, you must make double checking your sources for acceptability and integrity before making the reference or information a part of your essay.
ichanpants89 [Contributor] 309  
Nov 27, 2016   #3
Hi Daniel, Welcome to EssayForum :)

I have some experience in writing some research projects but this type of research paper is quite different from what I usually do. A research paper that I usually write consists of at least three chapters. The first one is "Introduction", the second one is "Discussion", and the third one is "Conclusion". I might say that your research paper seems like an essay but it has additional "cited works/references". If you think that my version is quite good, just try to group the information into the mentioned chapters above.

In addition, you are suggested to avoid using contractions in an academic essay. Contractions will make your essay become less formal/academic. I also notice some grammatical inaccuracies that would be described below.

- There were about twenty 3-storytwenty-three-story / 23-story buildings with...
- By nowThen , several other engineS and one other...
- It burned so hot, so fast that we couldn't stop it,could not stop it.(Stop here, new sentence)We could only keep other surrounding...

- ...basements doare not counted as a story. (stop here, new sentence)soThus, many builders dig an enormous hole...
- ...the internet yielded dozens of articles from local newspapers across the country that showshowed a growing trend...
- ...from a furniture store like IkeaIKEA ...

Hope this helps :)

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