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Oakland tragedy puts focus on fire safety


Crews are still clearing debris from the warehouse fire in Oakland, and they have not yet found a cause. The deadly fire raises concerns across the country about fire safety.

The warehouse in Oakland was cited several times for blight, including twice in the last month for clutter and graffiti. Elsewhere, a similar building in Baltimore just got shut down because it didn’t meet standards.

You can’t just use any building for an event — you have to check with the local fire department first.

Talking with NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday about the tragic fire, Bend Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Howe mentioned one building in Bend that didn’t go through the standard change-of-use process.

“They used it as a used building supply store and then they also used it as a concert venue,” he explained. “Those are incompatible uses. You’ve got a lot of people assembled in a place where there’s a lot of stuff that can fall down, or if it catches fire can block exits.”

The main things officials review to prevent fires are building capacity, number of exits, and objects on the floor or walls that might catch fire or block doors.

Howe recounted an event turned disaster that he witnessed earlier in his career in Rhode Island.

“It was overcrowded in a small bar, with very very flammable wall coverings — and they had a fireworks show,” he said. “It actually ignited the wall covering, (and) people thought it was part of the show. It ended up killing a hundred people.”

Making sure the building isn’t cluttered with too much flammable material is key. Sadly, that’s what made the Oakland fire so devastating.

As far as exits are concerned, the Bend Fire Department requires two per building, and if there is only one, the capacity for an event must be under 50.

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