Fire Chief Tim Butler

Fire Chief Tim Butler
Thanks for checking out my web log! My radio call sign in Saint Paul is "Car 1." Join me as we go "On Scene" to the fire stations, training evolutions, emergency incidents, and community events in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Let's share perspectives on the issues facing our Department, our community, and the American Fire Service!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Day 22 - Campus Fire Safety Month

One of the best ways to protect your college student from fire is to choose student housing that is compliant with building and fire codes, that have well-maintained and operating safety systems installed, and where housing managers make a concerted effort to promote fire safety on the premises.

Saint Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard recommends asking some important questions when selecting college student housing - either on-campus, or off-campus (85% of student fire deaths have occurred in off-campus housing):

• What is the fire history in off-campus housing?

• Are there automatic fire sprinklers installed?

• Are there WORKING hardwired smoke and carbon monoxide alarms? How often are they tested?

• What discipline is handed out by the school if someone maliciously causes a false fire alarm?

• How much fire safety training do residence hall staffs receive?

• How often do students receive fire safety education?

• How often are evacuation drills conducted?

• Are there couches or upholstered furniture on the front porch or deck?

By doing some research when selecting student housing, your student can have a safer, more secure college experience!

Take care, and enjoy the rest of Campus Fire Safety Month!


Friday, September 21, 2012


A quick follow up to today's Campus Fire Safety tip: An early morning fire on Portland Avenue in Saint Paul this morning highlights AGAIN the hazards of carelessly discarded smoking materials. 2-story, 5-unit apartment building....a cigarette discarded in a potted plant on a second floor balcony....potting soil caught fire hours later....Saint Paul Fire Department called out at 4:30 AM.... MORE THAN $10,000 DAMAGE DONE to the second floor of the building!! Please talk to your college students about the hazards of smoking - whether or not they are the smoker! Tim


Day 21 - Campus Fire Safety Month

Last weekend I responded to a house fire in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul.  The fire started on the outside of the house near the porch.  Flames - fanned by the southwesterly breeze - pushed up the exterior walls and into the eaves and attic and forced their way into the first floor kitchen.  The sole occupant of the home awoke to the sound of smoke alarms sounding, thick smoke filling her home, and flames rapidly eating their way through the first and second floors, and gaining a stubborn foothold in the concealed ceiling spaces and roof structure of the attic.

Saint Paul Firefighters responded quickly, but the house was "fully involved" upon our arrival.  We managed to remove some personal items and records from the home, but the house was declared a total loss.  A home destroyed.....important records, photos, and books lost.....3 people displaced.....a family that will take a very long time to regain its sense of physical and financial security again.

The cause if the fire was an all-too-often culprit:  carelessly discarded smoking material.  Cigarette ashes, butts, and matches not fully extinguished can flare into flames when dropped or discarded next to other combustibles.  "Smoking-related" fires account for a significantly large percentage of fires in the nation, and are the leading cause of fatal fires in the country, the state, and Saint Paul.  This year, Saint Paul has had four fatal fires - all of them caused by smoking or carelessly discarded smoking materials.

Saint Paul's only recent college student fatality was a result of smoking, and the fire was eerily similar to the fire in Frogtown over the weekend:  an outside fire on the porch, pushed by the southwesterly wind and driven back into a student rental house, where it trapped and killed 20 year old Michael Larson, a University of Saint Thomas student.  Smoke alarms awoke other occupants and allowed them to escape, but Michael was trapped.....and he was the only occupant of the home who didn't smoke!

There is no "safe cigarette" when it comes to starting fires.  Short of quitting a smoking habit, there are a number of ways you can reduce your chance of hurting yourself or others or burning down a building:

*  First, know that if you light the match or the cigarette, you are responsible if a fire ensues.  Be responsible for your actions.

*  Ensure that matches, ashes, and butts are completely extinguished before discarding them.

*  Use an ash/butt receptacle that is deep, non-combustible, and made for holding discarded smoking materials.  Many times the Fire Department responds to extinguish a fire in ash containers made from plastic, fires in shallow ash containers that have spilled their contents, or ash containers/ashtrays placed on unstable surfaces.  "Deep, stable, and non-combustible" are what you should choose when looking for an ash/butt receptacle.

*   Clean the butts out of that receptacle on a regular basis.  Fires can start when a glowing match or cigarette ash comes into contact with a large accumulation the cigarette butts and papers in an ashcan/butt receptacle.

*  Do not discard smoking materials into potted plants or onto ground cover such wood chips or mulch.  The vegetable materials in potting soil and ground cover is combustible and can catch fire after coming into contact with a glowing ash or cigarette butt.

*  Use childproof lighters and avoid novelty lighters that children might be tempted to play with.

*  Don't smoke when you're sleepy and don't smoke when you're drinking.  Those activities are deadly combinations.  I have witnessed many fires that resulted when people were smoking and fell asleep; alcohol increases the risk of falling asleep.

*  If you have roommates or neighbors that smoke, make sure you pass these fire prevention tips on to them as well.  The Michael Larson fire was a prime example of a smoking-related fire that took the life of a non-smoker.

These simple tips can save your life and can save your property or the property of a neighbor or a loved one.  For college students experiencing independence from home for the first, peer pressure to engage in risky behavior like drinking and smoking can be almost irresistible.  Please arm your student with information about the dangers of smoking.  Be sure to remind them that, "If you light the cigarette, then you light the fire that starts from careless or irresponsible disposal of the matches and the butts from your smoking experience."

Take care, and be safe.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed today "Patriot Day" and a day to remember and honor the victims of the 9-11-2001 attacks. President Obama has asked all Americans to observe a moment of silence at 7:46 AM Central Time - the time that American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the WTC.
The Saint Paul Fire Department will be flying flags at half-mast today, and will be observing that moment of silence this morning in remembrance of the attacks, the victims, and the 343 FDNY Firefighters killed in the rescue operation.

Why do we remember these men and women? To many of us, it's not just an historic event in our country's history. It is real…it is personal….it happened to our brothers and sisters. If you care to read why I remember, and have tried to honor all fallen Firefighters in this Department and this nation, please feel free to continue reading below; they are the comments I made at a 2009 memorial service to mark the anniversary of the attacks and the 343 New York Firefighters killed in the rescue operation.  If you don't care to read on, then please take a moment today to remember the victims and the heroes of the 9-11-2001 attacks.

Most Respectfully,

Have you ever noticed that some events of our lives slip by almost unnoticed while other events seem imprinted on our memories like photographs? Sometimes we can’t remember what we did last weekend, but we can vividly recall a first date, or the birth of our first child.
The sight of the burning WTC towers will stick with me forever….

…….2 towers
…….2 pillars of smoke
…….huge fireballs of orange flame
…....a deep blue sky.

The images were stark.....Graphic.....Shocking. They grabbed you in the guts and made words stick in your throat. As the years go by, those photos in our national memory seem to be fading – forgotten by some and rarely if ever seen by younger Americans. So it’s good and proper for us to be here as Firefighters and Citizens tonight to refresh our collective memories about September 11, 2001.

Why remember 9-11? It’s understandable that children and teenagers may not know about the events of that day – they were too young to know what was going on. But many elected officials, citizen and corporate leaders, and – shamefully some firefighters - seem to have forgotten the events of September 11th and the impact those attacks had on our country. Sometimes they rationalize their forgetfulness: After all, it was 8 years ago......Time marches on.... And there are other priorities facing our country and our world now. Sometimes we just move on with life’s priorities and allow the memories to fade away.

But tonight let me share with you a few reasons that I think it’s unforgivable to forget, and a couple of practical, specific ways all of us can remember what 9-11 was really all about.

The attack on the Pentagon, the foiled attack on the White House, and the destruction of the World Trade Center was a bold plan, boldly executed. It was planned and carried out by people who had repeatedly vowed to kill our children, end our way of life, and destroy our Judeo-Christian heritage. They have long memories, and a long history of attacking US targets and Americans overseas. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were over 10 years in the making.

The plan to use our own airliners against us was....ingenious, really. The aircraft - loaded with tens of thousands of gallons of highly flammable fuel – were essentially crude guided missiles – and they were aimed at the centers of our economic might, the heart of our federal government, and the leadership of our military. I was so shocked at seeing the two pillars of smoke over Manhattan that it wasn’t until I saw the Pentagon burning that I knew it was an intentional attack on our country; until that point, I thought it must be some tragic failure of the air traffic control system.

We must remember the attack event itself, because the people who attacked us are still at war with us. We may have lost our anger and forgotten – but the enemies of our country have not forgotten their hatred of us. When we stop remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, we’ll become complacent towards future attacks – whether they come from domestic criminals inside our country, or from outside radicals and terrorists.

It wouldn’t hurt to put the 9-11 images back on television once in awhile – not to stir up hate or anger, but to inspire the passion and resolve to continue to prepare ourselves to defend our nation and our way of life. Remembering – so we don’t become complacent - that’s one excellent reason for annual ceremonies like this.

Secondly, out of a sense of human dignity, we should remember the individuals – the men and women - killed that day. Each had family, friends, workgroups, and networks. Each was part of the rich, diverse social structures of this country: churches, schools, workplaces, sports teams – none were spared the loss of the 2,973 lives lost on 9-11. Every one of those lives was “precious, unique, and of irreplaceable value.” Each brought something to our world – our nation – that can never be replaced. Take an hour or two this weekend and go to some of the memorial websites set up to honor those individuals and their rich, diverse lives. Check out or Look into the faces of the wives, the children, the coworkers and friends of those that were murdered that day 8 years ago. You’ll remember a little better what the attacks really meant to some, and it’ll be a little harder to forget them in the weeks and months ahead.

Please especially remember the families of the police officers, emergency medical responders, and firefighters who were killed on 9-11. Those families know best the deep regret of saying goodbye to a loved one in the morning, and never seeing or holding that loved one again.....EVER. Always remember that families ALSO serve!

The World Trade Center towers stretched up over 1300 feet in the air – 110 stories into the New York City skyline. Each floor was about one acre in size. You could see for 45 miles from the top of those towers! They were the centerpiece of the New York City skyline, and they epitomized the character of New Yorkers and Americans everywhere: bold…proud…enterprising…courageous. They were built by hard-working men and women who had as much steel in their hearts and muscles as they put into the towers. The World Trade Center was a reflection of our national character.

No wonder they made such prominent targets in the eyes of the terrorists. When the towers were hit, it was not so much an attack on the buildings, but an attack on that national character of ours. When those towers fell, and when the Pentagon was on fire, ALL Americans were victims. Yet – like the mythical phoenix bird rising from the ashes of a fire - a new spirit of national unity and resolve arose from the debris piles of the World Trade Center. All of us were united in our grief, and unified in our response – and we responded by demonstrating the values most dear to us as a nation.

I say it’s vitally important to remember 9-11 so we’ll be reminded of those days of unity following the attacks when we all saw and shared in the fighting spirit of our country – the very best traits in our national character.

And perhaps that’s the best reason for remembering 9-11 responders as well: they personified the values we most want to see in civilized society: faith, courage, strength, compassion, unity, vision, and sacrifice.

Yes……Let me say a few words about sacrifice. The word Sacrifice itself comes from two Latin words meaning “to make holy.” By its very nature, a sacrifice is something to be revered and honored - just like we would hold sacred a holy artifact or relic. On September 11, 2001, we all were humbled as 343 New York Firefighters stepped forward to sacrifice themselves for other citizens, for our national character, for the sacred values of the American Fire Service. It was the largest loss of life from any public safety response agency in history.

The willingness to step forward and serve has been a hallmark of the American Fire Service since the inception of our country. Firefighters constantly live with the fact that the ultimate sacrifice of their lives might be the price they pay for their willingness to serve. Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman challenged us to think about this: what job is so dangerous that you’re asked to swear in front of your family, friends, and God that you’ll willingly lay down your life for others if you need to – before you’re even allowed to join the organization? I can think of only three that require such an oath “up front:” the clergy; the US military; and the public safety profession made up of peace officers, emergency medical responders, and firefighters.

And the sacrifices continue for many of the rescuers at the World Trade Center. Not all the victims died on September 11, 2001. We are still losing firefighters from that attack. Many have contracted life-threatening respiratory infections from the dust and debris of the World Trade Center and Pentagon rubble piles. Many have developed cancers from the hazardous materials inherent in our daily work and present in large quantities at the World Trade Center and Pentagon sites. Some have succumbed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide. So, if people ask you why we should remember the horrors of 9-11, tell them that for many responders, those horrors aren’t over yet – they’re still happening!

It’s important, I think, to note that the 343 heroes from the New York City Fire Department who gave their lives up on September 11, died very honorable deaths. Their sacrifices reflect the very highest values and traditions of our nation’s fire service.

One of the most sobering tasks I perform as Fire Chief is to write letters of condolences to other Fire Chiefs when their department has suffered a line of duty death. I write a letter for every Line of Duty Deaths.

So far this year, I’ve written 70 letters…..

In far too many cases the cause of death is due to heart attack, stroke, vehicle accidents, and failure to wear seatbelts. For you firefighters out there, remember the honorable deaths of 9-11 and don’t needlessly waste your life and threaten the lives of fellow firefighters or citizens on patently unsafe actions or poorly thought out strategies. Practice the three rules of good risk management on the fireground: risk a lot to save a lot; risk a little to save a little; don’t risk anything on property or lives already lost. Wear your seat belts. Practice good air management procedures. Conduct a thorough 360 walk-around of fire buildings and do a good size up. Wear your PPE.

Take time to learn from others who have gone before you – from their experiences – and yes, sometimes their mistakes. Fire Chief Rick Lasky, Lewisville, TX, admonishes all of us to remember EVERY brother and sister firefighter who has died in the line of duty by incorporating the lessons they taught us while they were still here.

Read the lessons learned publications....the NIOSH Line of Duty Death investigations....check out and sign up for Chief Billy Goldfedder’s “Secret List.”

Finally, it’s important to remember 9-11 because it brought all of our brothers and sisters in the Fire Service closer together. We drew together as a family. Some call it “the brotherhood.” If we don’t protect our firefighter family – the feeling of belonging to a special group of people – a special family - it’ll be lost forever.

A couple of months ago, I was lounging at a campsite during a family vacation on the East Coast. A dark blue pickup truck slowed down as it passed our site. The driver was slouched down in his seat, with his arm out the window hugging the door. He looked at my International Association of Firefighters and International Association of Fire Chiefs stickers on the truck and the Minnesota license plates, and gave out a long, low whistle: “WWWHHHHHHHEEEEEEEWWWWW!” “Brother,” he said, “you’re a long ways from home!” That was my introduction to LT Mike Regan, Fairfax County, VA Fire Department, and a team leader of on of the initial rescue teams to enter the Pentagon on 9-11. What struck me most about Mike was his easy manner, and his free and liberal use of the term “Brother” - just because I was a fellow firefighter. There was a bond there – a bond made special by his efforts to include me in the brotherhood. 9-11 did that to our service – Chief Lasky said it differently: “The hugs feel better than ever.” If you want to hear more about our Brother Mike Regan, Google his name on the internet. You’ll meet a tough, talented firefighter, hear his first hand accounts of the response to 9-11, and meet a darn nice guy – a darn good brother. Let’s remember 9-11 and keep that brotherhood – that sisterhood - alive.

When you go home tonight, you’ll undoubtedly see news reports of the memorial service of Officer Richard Crittenden – gunned down in the line of duty in North Saint Paul on Labor Day morning. His son, Rick, is a Saint Paul Firefighter on Ladder 18 in Frogtown. Watch those news stories and think of the sacrifice, think of the families, of your own response actions, and of our brotherhood – our family – in the fire service.

Take an hour this weekend and sign up for the Secret List, peruse the websites for

9-11 families and victims, do a Google search for 343 and WTC, or check out the FireEngineering or Firehouse websites for safety tips on keeping yourselves and your brother and sisters safe. Take a look at Chief Lasky’s book, “Pride and Ownership: a Firefighter’s Love of the Job.”

Never Forgetting means Never Forgetting. Make the effort to learn something you never knew before about the September 11, 2001 attacks and the heroes who died. Take the time to learn something from any of our brothers or sisters who has died in the line of duty in the last five years and incorporate the lesson into your on duty procedures. Honor the memory and the legacy of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice and by doing so taught us a better way of doing things. Pass on what you know to others.

Yes, there are some very good reasons to remember September 11, 2001. If we fail to remember the details of that horrific event, then the values of the American Fire Service and the highest principles of this great nation may also pass away forever….. unnoticed.

It has been an honor to be here tonight. To my brother and sister firefighters: I revere your service and honor your sacrifices. It is a distinct privilege to serve along side of you in the protection and defense of this nation!

Most Respectfully

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Day 9 - Campus Fire Safety Month

Candles, incense,  and other open flames are common sources of residential fires.  The best prevention is to eliminate or strictly limit the use of such articles.  But, if you decide to use them, here are a few tips to do so more safely:

*  Place them in sturdy holders.  A heavy candle holder with a large base is less likely to get knocked over.  Ensure the candle is firmly set into the holder and doesn't wobble around.
*  Place the candle and holder on a study desk, dresser, table, or countertop.  If placed on a flimsy or cushioned surface, a candle can easily be toppled.
*  Keep curtains, papers and other combustibles away from any open flame.  Remember that curtains can be blown by the wind, so keep candles and incense well away from draperies and curtains.

*  Keep pets away from open flames.  A swishing tail or a bumped table can knock over a candle and spread flames to other combustibles.

*  Never leave a burning candle unattended.  If you leave the room where a candle is burning, either take it with you or extinguish it completely.

*  Ensure candles are completely extinguished before discarding them.  Used birthday candles should be held under running water or soaked in water before discarding them in the trash.

Remember:  if you light a candle and it subsequently causes a fire, then YOU lit the fire!  So, limit your use of candles and open flames wherever possible, and use them safely if you use them at all.

Enjoy the month of September, and please take a moment to adopt some of these Campus Fire Safety tips, and encourage your student friends and family members to do the same.

Take Care and Stay Safe.


Saturday, September 8, 2012


Day 8 - Campus Fire Safety Month

Today's "tip of the day" for Campus Fire Safety Month is this:  when choosing a campus dormitory, off-campus housing, or social gathering location, select one protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system.  Fire sprinklers are quiet, reliable, and provide superior 24-hour protection.  Fire sprinkler systems can significantly increase your chances of surviving a fire.  When paired with operating smoke detectors, fire sprinklers can cut your chances of dying in a fire by over 80%!!
Take a look at this video:  SIDE BY SIDE FIRE SPRINKLER DEMO
The video was filmed at the Saint Paul Fire Department's training center by KARE-11 television in the spring of 2012.  The video shows the effectiveness of automatic fire sprinkler systems using two identical living rooms.  One room is equipped with a fire sprinkler system, and the other room is not.   Identical fires were lit in each room in a dramatic side-by-side comparison.  As you watch the video please note a couple of important facts:

The smoke alarms went off in both rooms very early into the fire (about 45 seconds after the first flame appeared) - well in time for occupants to wake up and safely escape.  TEST THOSE SMOKE ALARMS MONTHLY!!!

The fire in the room equipped with the sprinkler was extinguished in roughly two minutes by a SINGLE sprinkler head;  the fire in the unprotected room completely consumed the room and all contents in less than four minutes.  No one could have survived in the inferno.

The heat and the carbon monoxide level in the room protected by the sprinkler system dropped dramatically once the sprinkler system activated.

So, whenever possible select housing and gathering places protected by sprinkler systems for peace of mind and a safer college experience for your student!

Take care and stay safe!


Friday, September 7, 2012


Day 7 - Campus Fire Safety Month

The other day on this web log, I discussed having "Two Ways Out." That's part of what's called "situational awareness" - being alert to your physical surroundings and the events that are happening around you. By anticipating a possible emergency situation and maintaining your situational awareness, you can be better prepared to respond to and safely escape a fire or other emergency situation.

Besides pre-planning "Two Ways Out" of every room, college students should also take a few minutes to explore new surroundings (dormitory building, off-campus housing, academic buildings, and social gathering areas), and note some key reference points in order to maintain situational awareness. At all times, students should know:

• Two Ways Out

• Location of the nearest fire alarm pull station

• Location of the nearest fire extinguisher

• Location of the nearest telephone (not counting cell phones)

• The street address and building number/name where you are

• The emergency number you dial to summon campus emergency responders

• The smoke alarm near your sleeping area and when it was last tested

• The location of the nearest AED and first aid kit/station

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but these few items will help ensure that a student can escape a dangerous situation and summon help to assist others.

Take a moment to gather situational awareness when you enter a new environment....and work to maintain your awareness of your surroundings, the hazards around you, the people nearby, and what those people are doing. Situational awareness.....get it.....keep it.....LIVE with it!

Take care and stay safe.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


Day 6 - Campus Fire Safety Month

College students typically aren't renowned for their cooking expertise.  Take out pizza, microwave popcorn, mac and cheese, Ramen noodles, and Hamburger Helper are typical menu items when time, budgets, and kitchen experience are short.

Here's one kitchen "recipe" you should pass on your college student as they begin preparing meals for themselves and their roommates:  how to prevent and safely fight a fire in the kitchen.

Kitchen fires are the most common cause of fires nationally, in Minnesota, and in the City of Saint Paul.  They account for 60-75% of all residential fires.  There are some simple ways of preventing kitchen fires, and safe ways to extinguish them if they occur.

Inattentive cooking is the most typical cause of kitchen fires.  After putting a pan on the stove, a person walks off to talk on the phone, catch that show on TV, run and errand, or otherwise gets distracted and forgets the pan heating on the stove.  It doesn't take long for a little grease in a pan to reach ignition temperature.  Flames quickly spread to nearby combustibles, overhead cabinets, and ceiling and walls.  Acrid smoke also quickly spreads, making it difficult to breath and difficult to see.  A common stovetop fire can produce thousands of dollars worth of damage, volumes of choking smoke, and - in Saint Paul in 2011 - three fire fatalities.

Take a look at this important video.  It was filmed by KARE-11 TV earlier this year with the help of some Minnesota Firefighters.  It shows the deadly and damaging effects of a kitchen fire, a safe way to fight a kitchen fire, and how NOT to extinguish a stove top grease fire.

Here are five tips to make cooking safer - at home or living in a college dorm or off-campus housing:
1.  "When you Cook, Stay and Look."  Don't wander off or get distracted while cooking.

2.  Keep paper products, towels, and other combustibles away from the stove.

3.  Keep children and other "bystanders" away from the stove and oven when cooking.

4.  Install stove top fire extinguishers (FireStop is one manufacturer of these extinguishers).  These extinguishers hang above the stovetop burners and activate if flames reach over about 18" high.  That's high enough to activate the dry chemical extinguishing agent that'll put the fire out, but usually not high enough to catch cabinets, ceilings, and walls on fire.

5.  NEVER use water to extinguish a grease fire in the kitchen.  Water on a grease fire can cause a large fireball as the fire atomizes the water and explosively spreads the burning grease everywhere.

As your college student begins the new academic year, please ensure your pass on to them a vital "life lesson:". How to prevent and safely extinguish a fire in the kitchen!  It's a simple and effective way to promote college student safety during September - Campus Fire Safety Month.

Take Care, and Stay Safe.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Day 5 - Campus Fire Safety Month

Here's a simple tip that could save your life:  check for two ways out every time you enter a room.  Oftentimes in a fire, one egress path will be blocked due to smoke, heat, clutter, or other people crowding the exit in an attempt to escape.  Having already "pre-planned" how you will escape using a secondary egress route could save your life and the lives of others.

People normally exit a room using the same doorway they came in through to enter the room, and that door is usually the first escape route they attempt in the event of a fire.  If they find the way out blocked or inescapable, they may not be able to formulate "Plan B" quickly enough to safely escape....unless they identified "Two Ways Out" before the fire.  By quickly scanning a room when you first enter it, you can formulate an alternate egress route using another door, a window, or a balcony.  A few brief seconds of checking can save your life in the event of a fire.

This tip works anywhere:  at a college dormitory, a party, a friend's house, a store, the theater, or even an airplane.

TWO WAYS OUT....pre-plan your primary and secondary egress routes every time you enter a room!

Take care and stay safe.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Good Morning, Everyone.

Today marks a tragic day in the history of the Saint Paul Fire Department – the anniversaries of 2 separate Line-of-Duty-Deaths - separated by 13 years.

The first of these duty-related Firefighter fatalities occurred on September 4, 1959 when Firefighter John Zasada fell down the pole hole at Station 4 and died of his injuries.  John’s death was the fourth department death related to falling down stairs or pole holes at the City’s fire stations.  These incidents occurred before the modern safeguards of pole hole railings and covers were installed.  Dimly lit station interiors and middle-of-the-night alarm responses contributed to this inherent danger.  As a result of John’s death and previous fire pole related tragedies, Stations 1 and 6 – built in 1964 – were constructed on a safer, single-story design.  Firefighter Zasada was assigned to Engine 4.

John was born in Saint Paul and attended Washington High School.  He joined the Department in 1956, was married, and lived at 572 Hall Street.  He was just 33 years old at the time of his death.

The second Line-of-Duty-Death occurred on September 4, 1972, when Fire Captain John Kill collapsed and died from a heart attack while working on a 5-alarm fire in the sweltering heat of the afternoon.  The fire was burning in an abandoned school – the McKinley Elementary School – at the corner of Carroll and Mackubin Avenues in the Midway District.  An arsonist likely set the fire, and investigators later found eight separate ignition sites in the building.  The fire eventually burned through to the attic and roof structure, and master streams were in operation.  Captain Kill and his company – Engine 18 – were establishing a water supply when John collapsed.  He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

John lived at 1243 Danforth Street.  He graduated from Cretin High School, and joined the Fire Department in 1942.  He served in the US Navy during WWII, and returned to the Fire Department and promoted to Fire Captain in 1948.

At 0800 hours this morning, Saint Paul Fire Department members will pause for a moment of silence to honor the memory of Firefighter John Zasada, Fire Captain John Kill, and all 62 members of the Saint Paul Fire Department who have given their life in the service of this Department and the Citizens of Saint Paul.  Please feel entirely free to join us from wherever you may be.

Tim Butler 
Fire Chief


Day 4 - Campus Fire Safety Month

If you watched the Mock Dorm Fire video from yesterday's post, you know how fast and deadly college dormitory fires (any fire, really) can be.  It is hard to imagine how scary it would be to be trapped in a burning dormitory building!  The heat, the smoke, and the darkness make it incredibly difficult to safely navigate your way out.

Last year I read a great book entitled, "After the Fire:  A True Story of Friendship and Survival," by Robin Gaby Fisher.  The book describes a January 2000 fire in a dormitory building on the Seaton Hall University campus.  The fire - started as a prank when several students lit a banner on fire - killed 3 students and injured 58 others.  Among the burn victims who managed to escape the fire were two close friends and roommates who were severely burned:  Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos.

The book describes their harrowing escape from the fire, the months they spent in the burn units healing from their disfiguring and painful burns, the exceptional dedication and compassion of the burn unit doctors and nurses, and the investigation of the cause of the fire and the eventual prosecution of the ones who set the fire.

Shawn and Alvaro's story will leave a lasting impression.  The books graphically illustrates the real "cost" of dormitory fires...costs tallied in lives, pain, and the loss of both relationships and self-esteem.  Their story also showcases the incredible strength of friendship and the shining triumph of the human spirit.

Check out "After the Fire" for a great read and a close up encounter with a dormitory fire and it's aftermath.

Until next time....

Take Care and Stay Safe,


Monday, September 3, 2012


Day 3 of Campus Fire Safety Month.

Campus Fire Safety Month is designed to inform parents, students, and school administrators about the dangers of campus-related fires, and provide information and fire prevention tips so that deadly fires don’t happen to students while attending college.

So just how deadly is a fire in a college dormitory room?  Last October, the Saint Paul Fire Department staged a “Mock Dorm Fire” demonstration for the students and staff of the University of Saint Thomas.  We built a simulated dorm room outside on the campus commons area, furnished it with a desk, bed, chairs, and other common dormitory furnishings, then lit it on fire to show just how fast and hot these fires can be!

The results were filmed by the Saint Paul Office of Technology and Communications and shared with the world on YouTube:

You can begin to see a small flame on the left side of the room about 30 seconds after we used a hot halogen lamp to ignite the window curtains.

45 seconds into the fire, the smoke alarm begins sounding.  At that point, the ceiling and floor temperatures are still low enough for survival, and the room is nearly clear of any smoke.  A sleeping college student could easily have woken up and exited the room with little chance of getting hurt.....IF the smoke detector was operating properly, as it was in this scenario.

The curtains really start to burn and grey smoke begins to boil out of the window about 1 minute, 20 seconds into the fire.  The chair ignites at 1 minute and 40 seconds.  Ceiling temperatures reach 300 degrees less than 2 minutes after the fire started and over 1,000 degrees just 30 seconds later!!  By the time the fire had been burning for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, no one in the room would have been able to survive the heat and smoke, and in just 3 minutes the room was utterly destroyed!

There were no accelerants used in the demonstration.  The “fuel” for this fire was entirely the furnishings in the room:  an ordinary wooden desk, a bed, curtains, and a two chairs.

Selecting a dorm room or student housing equipped with automatic fire sprinklers is the very best choice a family can make to protect their college student.  Automatic fire sprinkler systems are designed to control or extinguish a fire and allow occupants to safely exit the fire before the flames and heat can kill. 

Not all housing has sprinkler systems, so the next best thing – something all of us should have – is working smoke alarms (detectors) on every level of a home and in or near every sleeping area – at home AND at school.  Batteries should be fresh, and smoke alarms should be tested every month.  One thing that just JUMPED out at me during the filming of the Mock Dorm Fire was how rapidly the smoke alarm when off – well before the smoke and flames would have prevented a safe escape!  A smoke alarm that is operating well can cut your chances of dying in a fire by over 50%!  To ensure yours is in good operational condition, test it monthly, change the batteries annually, and replace it every 5-10 years (check with the manufacturer on replacement cycles; they vary with manufacturer and model).

A Mock Dorm Fire is an exciting and graphic way of showing students, parents, and school officials the rapid and deadly effects of a dormitory fire.  If you’d like to stage a similar demonstration at your college or university, contact your local fire department or school safety official.

Thank you for going “On Scene” with me today, and I hope if you are a college student or a parent of one, that your “back to school” transition goes smoothly and safely this year!

Take care and stay safe!


Sunday, September 2, 2012


Since 2000, at least 155 people have died in campus-related fires across the nation.  Most of those deaths (over 85% of them) occurred in off-campus occupancies.

Common factors in a number of these fires include:
•  Lack of automatic fire sprinklers
•  Missing or disabled smoke alarms
•  Careless disposal of smoking materials
•  Impaired judgment from alcohol consumption
•  Upholstered couches and furniture on porches and decks

September has been declared "Campus Fire Safety Month" across the nation to raise awareness of college campus fires and to provide students, parents, and school administrators with tools and information to prevent campus-related fires, injuries, and fatalities.

I will be discussing some of those prevention strategies and information on this web log.  Please check in frequently during September to get some great information and ideas on how to keep our college students safer during Campus Fire Safety Month.

Take care, and stay safe!



Saturday, September 1, 2012


Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has declared September as "Campus Fire Safety Month" - joining governors around the nation in recognizing college and university campus fire hazards and helping to get fire prevention and safety information out to students and their parents. Here's the proclamation:

Throughout the month of September, I'll be sharing more information for both students and parents on how they can stay safer from fires on and off campus.  Join me - Car 1 - in keeping our students safe as September unfolds!!

Take Care - Stay Safe.