In our February newsletter we pointed out that the owners of apartment buildings with seventeen units or more had been slow to comply with a 2005 state law requiring an integrated, "three featured fire alarm system". These include the requirement that smoke detectors be installed in all units and common areas and the requirement that each corridor and apartment unit be equipped with sound devices that alert residents to the presence of a fire in the building. The third feature requires buildings that have fire sprinkler systems be tied to an outside alarm monitoring service.
The slow response was attributed to the cost of these new alarm systems as well as to the fact that most multi-family buildings already have alarm systems in units and corridors that are not integrated. The other reason for the slow response is that the number of rental units in Fridley (more than 4,000 units) together with the staffing levels of the Fridley Fire Department limit the frequency of inspection of rental units and common areas.
Since February, however, the Fire Department and rental property owners have made considerable progress in achieving compliance with state law. As of mid-August the owners of thirty-three of fifty-four apartment buildings had completed the upgrading of their fire alarm systems. Four other owners were in the process of completing installations. The owners of seven other buildings have indicated in writing that their building will be compliant by the end of the year. Two other owners, one who owns nine buildings and another who owns one building, have thus far failed to cooperate. Should they not cooperate by year's end; the Fire Department will assess additional penalties and refuse to renew rental licenses for the buildings.
According to Assistant Fire Chief John Crelly, there is abundant evidence that the new integrated fire alarm systems do help to save lives and limit property damage. On March 5 of this year, for example, firefighters were dispatched to an apartment fire at 630 Osborne Road. Shortly after being dispatched, Anoka County Dispatch advised that there was smoke in the exit hallway. Upon arrival, firefighters located a burning mattress that had been dragged to the living room of a ground floor apartment. After trying to extinguish the fire, residents of the apartment were forced by the dense smoke to leave the apartment. According to John Crelly, residents had no intention of calling 911. Fortunately, the new smoke detectors in the building's hallway detected the smoke and alerted all residents in the building. As a result, everyone was able to quickly and safely exit the building. Had the building's smoke alarm system not been upgraded, chances are great that the fire and smoke would have spread rapidly to other units in the building.
In 2008, after an extremely hectic third Friday in July, we began describing Fire Department calls for service on that date. While there's nothing magical about the third Friday in July, that's where we started and where we have been in each of the last three October newsletters. Here's the scoop on Fire Department activity on this date in 2011.
Altogether there were nine calls this year. They began at12:25 a.m. when a woman in an apartment reported hearing someone yelling for help. Firefighters found a forty-nine year old male in the hallway that had likely overdosed on medication and alcohol. The individual was transported by Allina. At 2:22 a.m. they responded to an eighty-five year old male who had fallen and suffered a head injury. One of our firefighters rode with Allina paramedics to assist with medical care. A little more than four hours later, at 6:37 a.m. firefighters responded to a report of "smelling something burning" at Grace Evangelical Church on 73rd Avenue. Firefighters found a hot electrical panel containing a sixty amp breaker and advised church staff to have an electrician inspect the panel.
The morning began with thunderstorms and rain. On this dark and stormy morning at 9:51 a.m. a neighbor reported seeing the house located at 1420 Glacier Lane struck by lightning. Firefighters responded and found a refrigerant line for a central air conditioner leaking on the building's exterior with vapor visible from the street. There was no other visible sign of damage, no one was home. After notifying the property owner by phone, firefighters cut a window screen and entered the home through a window. There was no sign of damage inside. Firefighters reported to the owner and secured the home before leaving.
At 11.42 a.m. firefighters responded to Wal*Mart after two employees experienced an allergic reaction to what may have been "construction fumes". After examining one of the two employees, firefighters found no cause for action and departed the scene. Having just sat down for lunch just after Noon, firefighters got another call at 12:25 p.m. The Brooklyn Center Fire Department was requesting mutual aid for a house fire at 7200 Dupont Avenue. Lightning had struck the house causing natural gas to leak from the exterior gas meter. Fire spread up the exterior of the house and into the attic. Firefighters from Brooklyn Center, West Metro Fire District, Robbinsdale and Fridley worked to extinguish the fire and remove smoldering cellulose insulation from the attic space. Fridley firefighters were at this scene for ninety minutes. The last call was a medical assist call at 12:42 p.m. to a 30 year old female who was having difficulty breathing. The individual had been transported by Allina before firefighters arrived.
From that time things were quiet until early the next morning when the very intense rainstorm hit Fridley early in the morning. By the time of the train derailment near Locke Lake the Fire Department had already responded to several other storm-related calls. After the derailment the call level again became very intense as did the call level for our Police and Public Works Departments.
Fire Department staffing on July 15 initially included just two firefighters. At 8:00 a.m. these firefighters were replaced by three other firefighters and an EMT student from Anoka Technical College. Fire Chief John Berg and Assistant Fire Chief John Crelly were also available between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Three other firefighters came in to assist with the call to Brooklyn Center.
The overall number of Fire Department calls for service in 2011 is up almost 7% from 2010 due mainly to the increased number of storms in 2011. This year we have had 1,663 calls for service through the first seven months. This compares with 1,557 calls for the same period in 2010, and 1,595 calls for the first seven months of 2009. Fire losses for 2011 have decreased slightly from the prior year. The value of lost property due to fire during the first seven months of 2011 is $79,420. This compares with $87,850 during the same period in 2010.
Have you ever been driving and seen something that looked like a potential emergency situation? Perhaps you wondered whether or not you should call 911. According to Linda Hanson, Manager of Anoka County Central Communications, the answer is yes. If you believe there is a potential problem under any circumstances that may require police or fire assistance do not hesitate to call 911. Additionally, if you think something looks suspicious or you think you've seen something that police and fire personnel should know about, call 911. These situations could include the spotting of a stranded motorist, rail system crossing gates that are unexplainably down, traffic signal outages, a non-injury accident, or a front door to your home that is mysteriously open. Don't deliberate; just call 911.
As you call 911, however, there are some do's and don'ts. First, if you accidentally called 911, stay on the line and explain what has happened rather than generate a response from an officer. Secondly, take a moment to visualize where you are and be prepared to describe your location. Third, do not necessarily expect an immediate response. Police officers and firefighters are often very busy responding to concurrent calls and must be given the flexibility to prioritize their calls. Also realize that in some circumstances you may get a telephone response or no response at all if it is something that has already been reported.
While you should not hesitate to call 911 for circumstances that may require police and/or fire department assistance, you should not be calling 911 for information about public events, power outages or other circumstances that are not public safety issues. Also, do not call 911 for situations where keys are locked in cars. The Fridley Police Department does not assist with vehicle lockouts; nor does it respond to reports of deer running near your home.
While you should be calling Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-1999 to report power outage, you should call 911 immediately if you spot a downed power line. If you smell, hear, or see a natural gas leak call 911. Once you have alerted public safety responders to the gas leak, you should call Center Point Energy's emergency gas leak hotline at 1-800-296-9815 to report the leak.
Both emergency and non-emergency 911 calls are handled by Anoka County Central Communications from their facilities in the Anoka County Courthouse. Fridley residents who wish to make non-emergency police reports, report a crime tip, or request a vacation house check have the option of reporting their matter online. Just go to the Fridley website, click on Police Department and follow the directions to their online reporting system.
Fire Chief John Berg reported that twenty-five of Fridley's apartment buildings having seventeen or more units have complied with the state fire code regarding the installation of building fire alarm systems. The owners of the remaining twenty-nine apartment buildings include five who have submitted plans for the installation of these fire alarm systems, and twenty-four who have contacted the City to request information or provide a written plan for how they will bring their buildings into compliance.
According to Chief Berg, the Minnesota State Fire Code (MSFC) has required that apartment buildings with seventeen or more units to have a three featured fire alarm system since 2005. The three features include the installation of smoke and heat detectors in common areas, such as corridors, boiler and furnace rooms, laundry rooms, and mechanical/electrical rooms. The second feature of these systems is that they be equipped with annunciation devices (devices producing more than seventy decibels of sound in the apartment unit) that are installed in each corridor or apartment unit. The third feature is that this fire alarm system must be wired to a fire alarm panel that is tied to one of several outside alarm monitoring companies, such as Electro Watchman, SimplexGrinnell, or ADT.
There are several reasons why the response has been slow to develop. First, the conversion of fire alarm systems is very expensive for apartment owners. Given the expense, and the fact that there are existing fire alarm systems in individual units as well as in the corridors of most multifamily units, the City's Fire Marshall Ralph Messer has been willing to grant additional time to apartment owners who have been willing to file a plan whereby the owner identifies a schedule for installation of the state's three tiered system. Another factor contributing to the slow response of apartment owners is the Fire Departments inspection schedule. With more than 650 rental property buildings (over 4,000 units) in Fridley, the Fridley Fire Department must adopt an inspection schedule that accommodates their staffing levels. The bottom line is that the size and complexity of the rental inspection program permits common area inspections of Fridley's apartment units no more frequently than once every two years.
Where does the Fire Department go from here? According to Chief Berg, during 2010, the Fire Department's inspectors have contacted the owners of each of the twenty-nine non-compliant or partially compliant buildings to ascertain where the owner(s) is with plans to install the required alarm systems. Each will be given additional time to complete the alarm system upgrades; however, in no case will they permit the non-compliant owners to stretch the process out longer than December 31, 2011. After that date, the units will be posted to prevent further occupancy and their owners will be issued a criminal citation for non-compliance with state law.
According to Chief Berg, the required fire alarm systems do make a difference and do potentially save lives. He indicates that Fridley has had two recent apartment fires that had positive outcomes due to the new fire alarm systems. In both cases the full corridor smoke detection system helped detect the fire a lot earlier than might ordinarily have been the case. The horns in the corridor and the individual units enabled all tenants to safely exit the building before the corridor became filled with smoke and before anyone was in serious jeopardy. In another recent fire in a forty-two unit structure, where the owner had not been compliant with the state fire code's alarm system requirements, a tenant discovered a hallway filled with smoke at about 1:30 a.m. The fire alarm system had not activated because the exit corridor has no smoke detectors. Fortunately, the tenant pulled a manual alarm system; however, had the fire been more serious in nature the first floor hallway would not have been usable due to the accumulation of heavy smoke. Residents would have been forced to exit the building through their apartment windows.
Fridley Fire Chief John Berg and Fridley City Manager Bill Burns met with William P. Snoke, Director of the Office of EMS for
In response to our questions, Mr. Snoke pointed out that along with increased call volume, Allina Medical Transportation saw a $1.5 million reduction in revenues in 2010. While they have not cut
Fire Chief John Berg reports that the Fridley Fire Department along with four other
Tetra-KO's principal ingredient is corn starch. It along with other biodegradable ingredients are used to form a gel that, when mixed with water, turns to a liquid and then back to a gel as it sticks on impact with its targets. The product requires the use of ten times less water than would normally be used to knock down a fire. It also puts out the fire ten times more quickly than water alone. It does this by instantly sticking to a burning material and instantly suffocating the flames.
Unlike other foams or water. The Tetra-KO mixture is directed toward the fire in short spurts rather than a continuous stream. It requires no special nozzles or other special equipment and can be used after minimal firefighter training. In addition to putting out fire quickly, it enables firefighters to have much quicker access to the areas where the fire originated.
Yet another advantage to Tetra-KO is that it is very environmentally friendly. It requires less water, is biodegradable and non-toxic to fish, plants or mammals. While it may not be used in Class B fires (those involving gasoline and other flammables), it may be used in fire extinguishers and has been used with great results in fighting wildfires as well as structural fires.
It is mixed with water stored in fire engines at a .7% ratio. After about a month, however, it will biodegrade and is not re-useable. Not knowing the cost, Chief Berg is uncertain, at this point, how the separation factor will impact his cost of fighting fires. While the cost factor has yet to be defined, Chief Berg's overall satisfaction level with the new product is quite high. He reports that, in addition to its superior fire suppression performance, it reduces the amount of water required to fight fires and therefore greatly reduces water damage to structures. Additionally, unlike other firefighting gels, it is not slippery and is much safer for firefighter use.
Fridley's Fire Marshal, Ralph Messer has retired from the Fridley Fire Department after more than forty-two years of service as both a volunteer and full-time firefighter. Ralph joined the department on June 13, 1968 and officially retired as of December 31, 2010. When he began his service as a volunteer fire fighter, Fridley had just two full-time firefighters that included a chief and assistant chief. The volunteer firefighters were paid at a rate of $2 per call for fighting fires.
Ralph worked in a volunteer or paid-on-call capacity until his appointment as a part-time rental housing inspector in 1995. In 2000, following an in depth selection process involving five candidates, Ralph was appointed as Fridley's first, full-time Fire Marshal. In this role, Ralph's inspection focus extended to all commercial and industrial properties in Fridley. His inspections included inspections of under ground and above ground fuel storage tanks, fire sprinkler systems, and fire alarm systems. He has also been responsible for inspection of sprinkler and fire alarm systems in public schools and has performed a variety of other investigative duties. Additionally, his duties as Fire Marshal have extended to plan review for sprinkler and fire alarm systems in new and newly remodeled commercial/industrial structures. In this latter role he has worked very closely with the City's Chief Building Official, Ron Julkowski.
While primarily focused on inspections, Ralph has also served as a fulltime firefighter and has responded on numerous occasions to structural fires as well as medical assist calls. In addition to being certified by the Minnesota Fire Service Certification Board as a Fire Inspector I, Ralph is also certified as an Apparatus Operator IV, Firefighter III, and Emergency Medical Technician. He is also certified by the state for his various plan review functions.
When asked about the most significant changes in the fire service over his forty-two year tenure, Ralph responds by pointing out that fire equipment is now much safer and manageable than it once was. Engines now carry firefighters inside the cab rather than on a tailboard or a sideboard as they once did and firefighting gear has been greatly improved to offer much greater protection to firefighters. Hip boots, rubber coats, and fiberglass or aluminum helmets with ear flaps and ''chopper mittens" have been replaced by tightly woven, fire resistant turnout gear which covers the body all the way from the neck to the feet, composite helmets, hoods for the face and head, and gloves developed specifically for use in fire environments. He also points out that there have been great improvements in the self-contained breathing apparatus including the use of positive pressure masks and much lighter air bottles.
When asked about his memorable experiences in the fire service, Ralph recalls the time earlier in his career when he was riding in the middle of the front seat of a 1947 GMC tanker that was used for grass fires. When the driver stopped suddenly for a red light on University Avenue, water poured out of the front hatch of the tank and into the cab soaking him. He also remembers a huge industrial fire at FMC in 1978 that caused $1.4 million in damages, and a very tragic mid-1990's incident where a youth drowned in Rice Creek at University Avenue. Then there was the Fire Department response to the huge wind storm that hit Fridley in September of 2005. Ralph remembers responding with his partner to thirty-seven emergency calls between 7:00p.m. and 3:30a.m. Additionally he remembers running along side a medically impaired driver who had headed the wrong way on Highway 65 in July of 2008. Ultimately, after a lot of anxiety and yelling, he was able to get inside the car, shut off the ignition and remove the keys before the driver and vehicle could collide with the guard rail or another vehicle.
As he leaves this excitement Ralph is both eager to enjoy retirement and very sad about leaving his long time public safety colleagues. He says, " I love Fridley and my fire department and have been extremely proud to be a part of its phenomenal growth. .... I will miss those people I have served through the years and my brothers and sisters in public safety who became acquaintances and who stayed on to become good trusted friends."
Thank you Ralph for your outstanding service to the Fridley Fire Department and to the City of Fridley. We will miss you very much and wish you a long, healthy and happy retirement.
While the burning of trash or brush is generally not allowed in Fridley except under rare circumstances defined in Chapter 108.12 of the Fridley City Code, recreational fires are allowed in Fridley as long as the fire is in a contained area, such as an outdoor fire pit, which is not larger than 3' in diameter and as long as those hosting these fires comply with the following rules:
· No fires are allowed between Midnight and 9:00 a.m.
· Only clean wood or charcoal may be burned. This means no burning of trash, leaves and brush. (For information on yard waste disposal please contact the Bunker Hills Compost Site at 763-767-7964. They are located at 13285 Hanson Blvd in Coon Rapids, MN or visit the Anoka County website.
· The ground within 5' of the fire pit or other contained area must be cleared of all combustible material.
· The fire pit or other contained area must be at least 25' away from a structure.
This distance may be reduced to within 15' of a structure when contained in an outdoor fireplace or container approved by the Fire Chief.
· Recreational fires may not be started on windy days when smoke may create a nuisance for neighbors.
· The fire must be attended by an adult from the time it is ignited until it is fully extinguished.
· Fire extinguishing equipment, such as a garden hose, must be readily available to put out the fire.
· All other rules contained in Chapter 108.12 of the Fridley City Code.
While not a part of the law, as a matter of practice, we ask that those having recreational fires check with their neighbors to determine whether or not there are objections to these fires. If Fire Department staff does get calls from neighbors who are bothered by the smoke from a recreational fire, firefighters will ask that the fire be extinguished. In all cases we ask that you call 911 to register your complaints.
Fridley Fire Department staff will respond to complaints about recreational fires between 9:00 a.m. and Midnight. In most cases residents will be asked to extinguish fires that are not legal or a nuisance. On rare occasions, firefighters will extinguish the fire and/or issue a citation. After Midnight and prior to 9:00 a.m., police officers will respond to recreational fire complaints.
Unless a multi family residence has an approved gas fired or electric barbeque grill that is permanently mounted and wired or plumbed to the buildings gas supply, or electrical system, charcoal grills and gas grills are not allowed on the balconies of structures containing three or more dwelling units. They may also not be located on the ground floor patios of these properties unless they are located more than 15' from the structure. Fuel storage is also prohibited in structures having three or more dwelling units.
The new fire fighters include Matt Strong, Brian Clough, Jeff Pribyl, and Michael Klosterman. While Matt lives in New Brighton, Brian, Jeff, and Mike are Fridley residents. Matt has worked in the construction trades and is currently attending school at Century College, Brian is an "Instock Team Leader" at the Target Corporation, Jeff is employed as a the Area Games Technician for Brunswick Zone, and Mike has worked in the aviation field and as a landscaper and is currently employed by Protero Inc. as a CNC operator. Their employment as paid-on-call firefighters brings the total number of part-time paid-on-call firefighters to thirty-two. There are seven full-time fire fighters, including the Chief and Assistant Chief.
The recruit paid-on-call firefighters make $11.14 an hour for response to emergency calls and $12.99 per hour for shift work. They must be at least eighteen years of age, must have a Minnesota driver's license with no restrictions, and must be able to respond to their assigned station within six minutes. In addition to their EMT and Firefighter I certification, they must complete Firefighter II certification as well as complete a "Department Orientation and Competency Demonstration" within two years of their initial employment. There are also numerous other specialized certifications that are required at various points during their first six years of employment as a paid-on-call firefighter.