Should We Be Allowed To Sue The Government?

It sounds like a twisted question because we live in a country where we’re brought up to believe that “fairness” is an unalienable right — even though we don’t hear about it in the United States Constitution. But how many of us can say that we live in a fair world? How many of us can really argue that fairness is even possible? When you sue the government, you’re not being compensated by an organization — you’re being compensated by the individuals who fund it, i.e. you and me.

A Phoenix fire department was recently sued  after a fire truck collided with a pickup truck near Bethany Home Road/29th Ave., killing three of the pickups passengers: Kenneth Collins, 20; Dariana Serrano,19. An infant was also killed.

Sara Collins said, “We don’t get to have them in our lives anymore. Chase was a good father. She was a good mother. They had good hearts.”

Investigators were able to obtain surveillance video of the accident in order to conclude that no one was to blame for the collision. They did note, however, that the speed of the fire truck was partly to blame. The driver had it going at about 61 miles per hour at the time of impact. This was over the speed limit. The fire truck was blaring its sirens and lights. 

According to fire truck Engineer Paul Kalkbrenner, he thought “he was within the fire department’s standard procedures of 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.”

But he was going 20 miles per hour over the posted limit, which was 40 mph, according to investigators. 

Relatives of the deceased have filed a whopping $25 million lawsuit based on wrongful death. 

It’s understandable that the victims are angry and confused, and place blame on an engineer who was apparently disobeying standard operating procedures. But the city and the court will have to balance what the family deserves — in all fairness — with the greater good. $25 million in city resources pulled away from other projects already in dire need of funding could result in more deaths down the road. 

New technology is available to provide drivers with no excuse for not following standard operating procedure regarding the speed limit, and should be implemented to reduce such incidents. In the meantime, drivers who fail to do their job should be punished through termination or criminal charges. Families whose friends and loved ones have passed away due to these broken procedures deserve to be compensated — but in the confines of a system that only allows so much.

Are School Administrators Doing Enough On Fire Safety?

The last thing we want to hear as parents when our children return from school is that a fire broke out and they didn’t know what to do. Which is why we should make sure that our children know what to do while they’re at home. But that doesn’t mean school administrators and teachers aren’t responsible for our kids when under their supervision — they are educators, after all. But are they doing enough?

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation aimed at keeping our schools — both public and private — under stricter standards of fire safety. The law should result in more routine fire inspections by those who are most qualified to provide them: a fire department or specially trained county official. 

Schools that are in non-compliance with the new law will be forced to do so by the state’s Education Department, which has been given more teeth to order those inspections. The inspectors will be held to higher standards as well. Those who miss obvious details that should prevent fires will stand to lose their certifications — and their jobs.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Senator David Carlucci back in 2017. It’s taken this long to move through the proper channels. Zebrowski said, “After years of working with state and local fire officials, we have finally updated the arcane regulations that were in place.”

To put the new laws into perspective, it wasn’t so long ago that schools could ask a janitor to perform these inspections. And much of the paperwork was hard copy. Until now, there has never been standardized, electronic systems for processing these inspections. On top of that, private schools have mostly been running outside the legal boundaries and laws that other schools must follow.

Zebrowski says that the new legislation means that hundreds of schools throughout the Hudson Valley will need to get up to code. “Lay people, regular folks, were able to inspect these schools that employed them and check off the boxes…When we started this process, about 50 percent of private schools weren’t inspected. Now, through regulatory changes, we’ve gotten up to 90 percent. With this bill, we’re hoping to get up to 100 percent.”

Justin Schwartz is a member of Rockland’s illegal housing task force. He’s concerned about the number of homes recently converted into yeshivas — an elementary school for Orthodox Jewish kids — without becoming compliant with new fire safety codes or undergoing inspection.

Schwartz said, “You don’t know what you’re really walking into. And if they don’t have adequate hall space or exit options, then it’s only one way in and one way out, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Painted Cave Road Fire Raging Near Santa Barbara After Most Other Northern California Wildfires Brought Under Control

California has been stuck under the spell of wildfires for months now, but they’re finally getting under control — mostly. A new fire broke out near Santa Barbara at East Camino Cielo and Painted Cave Road, which is situated in the Los Padres National Forest. 3,800 acres have already gone up in smoke, and the fire is nowhere close to being contained. People are starting to ask why this keeps happening.

It turns out that Native Americans might have the answers, if we’re willing to listen.

Santa Barbara County is in a state of emergency thanks to the new fire. Officials have requested that California Governor Gavin Newsom announce the same. The county wrote that the fire is “causing conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within Santa Barbara County.” This is nothing new for California.

Ironically, it’s the state’s own fire prevention methods that are most to blame for the constant outbreaks — not the dry conditions, heat, or high winds. That’s because our methods don’t include prescribed burns, which ironically prevent the spread of unplanned forest fires that often rage completely out of control, potentially demolishing homes. But Native Americans were purposely setting fire to the countryside before European settlers even showed up.

These prescribed fires do more than just prevent uncontrolled burn. In addition to clearing away dangerous areas of dry brush, they also help maintain balance in animal populations and create natural meadows where animals, wild and farmed alike, can graze. 

The concept of “fighting fire” was developed from the 1880s until peaking in 1910 after a spate of wildfires were responsible for 86 deaths and a number of destroyed communities. Millions of acres of wooded area in Idaho and Montana disappeared in a flash. The event compelled the US Forest Service to extinguish similar fires in the future via new fire fighting methods. This also led to steep fines for everyone who used prescribed fires to reduce the surface area of dry brush — resulting in yet more fires.

Those fire prevention methods were largely unsuccessful. By 1968, our officials noticed that giant sequoias in California were on the decline. Our logic tells us that fire is a destructive force, but sequoias actually depend on it. Dry areas are “reset” when fire destroys the brush, and those areas typically grow up greener and stronger than before. Contrary to popular belief, fire is a necessary component of a healthy ecosystem. But we prevent them.

Scientists have long argued about the benefits of prescribed fires in preventing worse ones, but per usual, policymakers have declined to listen to the brightest minds — or the most experienced — we have at our disposal.

Massive Fire At Oil Facility In Northern California Finally Under Control

12,000 residents living in San Francisco Bay were told to stay indoors by authorities after a local oil facility erupted in flame. Residents were also told to keep doors and windows closed and locked. Although the fire is finally under control, it took nearly the entire day to extinguish. It erupted at about 2 p.m. yesterday afternoon at the Nustar oil and refined products facility in Crockett, California. 

According to the Contra Costa Health Department, there was the potential for a hazardous materials emergency in Crockett and Rodeo.

Contra announced, “Cover any cracks around doors or windows with tape or damp towels. Stay off the phone unless you need to report a life-threatening emergency at your location.”

The Contra Costa Fire Department was quick to respond. “This is a very dynamic, rapidly evolving situation,” said Captain George Laing. According to Laing’s statement, tanks were “releasing chemicals that are still burning.”

The exploded tanks held ethanol. One held about 167,000 gallons. It took the brave efforts of around 200 firefighters to combat the out of control fire using a combination of foam and water. 

Major rush hour traffic jams resulted with authorities temporarily shut down I-80.

Some residents were trying to get back home, to no avail. Rodeo resident Gabriel Iturbe’s teenage son had called to tell him about a nearby explosion. “It literally rocked the house and then soon after, he heard what sounded like a jet plane.”

Although the three tanks posed an immediate and present danger, they held only a minute fraction of the facility’s total storage capacity. Some people suspect that the fire may be related to the 4.5-magnitute temblor that was felt on Monday night near Oakland. The earthquake caused other oil refineries to go on high alert when they suffered malfunctions to some of their equipment.

Inhalation of burning ethanol (or alcohol) can be hazardous to health. The substance is a by-product of alcohol fermentation and mixes well with solvents — which is why it is used frequently for fuel. It is also used in varnishes, nail polish removers, perfumes, biofuels, medicine, cleaning products, and beauty products.

Consumption of ethanol can result in brain damage, coma, and death. It is not yet known whether or not the substance is a carcinogen. When handling ethanol, keep the substance away from open flame! Use a respirator, boots, rubber gloves, an industrial apron, safety goggles, and a face shield. If you suspect you have inhaled ethanol, move to an open space outdoors (or in the case of oil facility explosions, follow the directions of local authorities).

How Did 34 Passengers Die In The Boat Fire Off The Coast Of Santa Cruz Island?

When 34 people died after a boat fire in California, a lot of eyebrows were raised. How could such a tragedy happen in the United States in 2019? Aren’t there rigid security precautions in place to prevent situations like these? The accident occurred on a 75-foot-long boat named Conception, which was sailing off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. Conception was owned by Truth Aquatics, Inc. and had been commissioned for a 3-day diving expedition.

The boat reportedly caught fire in the early hours of the morning on September 2, 2019. The 34 passengers killed were all asleep. By the time they realized they were in danger, it was already too late. They couldn’t retreat past the flames, which were already spreading down into the passenger compartment. Eventually the boat sank with them still on board.

The story was recently confirmed by a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). 

According to the report, “Five crew members were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse, and one crew member was asleep in the bunkroom.” 

The law requires that at least one member of a seafaring vessel of Conception’s size must be awake throughout the night to ensure the boat is running safely. It the facts contained inside the preliminary report remain uncontested, that means that this regulation was being violated at the time of the fire.

Crew members who were asleep above deck still needed to struggle to escape, but such a feat was impossible for the 21 women and 13 men (aged 16 to 62) who were trapped below deck. The NTSB believes that all 34 victims died of smoke inhalation — and not from burns sustained from the flames or drowning after the boat sank.

Investigators are still looking into whether or not the passengers were aware of Conception’s safety procedures. Regulations require passengers to be informed and aware of these procedures before the boat or ship leaves dry dock. There was an escape hatch in the sleeping area. It remains unknown why the passengers did not use this hatch to find another way around the fire. Did they know it was there? Was it stuck? Or was the room already too full of smoke to find their way around when they awoke?

Lisa Novak, who works as a public affairs officer for the United States Coast Guard, said, “The Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are supported the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation and will work in close coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

What Actions Can You Take To Prevent Forest Fires From Growing Out Of Control?

Forest fires are an inevitable product of the natural world in which we live, but the sad fact is this: most of them are caused by the carelessness of our fellow citizens. Part of the problem is our own sweeping efforts to prevent these fires. Instead of routinely planning controlled burns in areas of extreme growth, we attempt to prevent by word of mouth. It rarely works. Still, you should know what you might be doing wrong when you’re out in the woods. 

How can you prevent forest fires that will rage out of control? Here are a few precautionary steps you might take:

  • Cigarettes. Try not to smoke when exploring areas where there is extreme danger of forest fire but, if you absolutely must, then be sure to fully extinguish your cigarette butt. Better yet, take the extinguished butt with you when you make your way out of the woods. Never just toss them on the ground.
  • Environment. Know your surroundings. Don’t start a fire near dry areas, especially if laws and regulations ask you not to start fires at all. Spilled fuel from lanterns, heaters, and stoves often results in accidental fires. Wind is another factor that causes many fires to spread out of control. Even tiny fires can spread during periods of high wind.
  • Tools. If you must make a fire when camping or backpacking, then be sure to keep a shovel and extra water nearby in case you need to quickly extinguish the fire. Careless hikers and campers commonly start fires that grow out of control. If your fire gets too big, dump as much of your water on it as possible, and then smother it with dirt using your shovel.
  • Attention. When building a fire, keep an eye on it. Try to hike or camp with a partner so there is always someone to watch your fire. Even looking away for a few minutes — such as you might do on a bathroom break — can result in a fire too big for you to put out alone. Always put out fires before you go to bed.

  • Know when to call the authorities. If a fire grows too far beyond your capacity to control, then dial 911. Call the park rangers (when applicable) if you notice an unattended fire. This is a serious subject, so don’t try to give your fellow hikers and campers the benefit of the doubt. Let the rangers do their job by extinguishing the fire and evicting the careless guests.

Are Wildfires More Dangerous Because Of Man-Made Climate Change?

Man-made climate change has resulted in weather phenomena we’ve never seen before, and scientists believe it will only get worse the longer we pump warming gases into the atmosphere. We know that climate change is a big factor in the increasing number of wildfires, in particular those seen in the Western United States over the last few years. But are fires in general more dangerous because of man-made climate change?


According to recent research on wildfires, they scorch at least twice the number of square miles today as they did nearly fifty years ago. That’s not all: the season during which these fires ravage our forests lasts about two and a half months longer than it once did. That’s a huge difference in the amount of carbon these fires put into our atmosphere. 

Why is this the case? Well, even though average global temperatures may only rise a degree or two in the coming decades, that’s the global average and it says nothing about regional averages — which may fall or rise much more than that. If the Western United States temperatures increased only a single degree Celsius, scientists believe the average forest fire would burn a much larger area (upwards of 600 percent in some cases). 

Native Americans used to use controlled burns to reduce the risk of fire and, therefore, the overall danger it posed to their tribes both big and small. Modern techniques are much the opposite: instead of using controlled burns to reduce the chance of a larger fire, we try to eliminate the threat completely. Counterintuitively, this results in bigger, longer lasting, and much more dangerous wildfires. And they’re only getting worse because of climate change.

About 80 percent of these fires are the result of careless campers, hikers, or other people. Even though the climate is a big factor, an increasing population can contribute as well. These fires cost many lives, and billions of dollars in damage from lost homes and destabilized infrastructure.

Those fires that burn hotter and for longer than those in the past will become much more dangerous to those who live in the affected regions. It’s important to note, of course, that not all fires will be bigger and more dangerous. It depends on a number of factors such as average temperature and how long drying foliage has gone without rain. Because some regions will experience lower temperatures, the risk and overall danger of fire may actually go down.

How Hammering A Metal Stake Started California’s Biggest Wildfire

According to a recent report in the New York Times, electric companies in California are rejoicing after the news that forensic investigators indicated that a rancher was responsible for starting the Ranch Fire. The rancher, who is allergic to wasps, after discovering an underground wasps’ nest decided to plug the hole with a metal stake. After hitting the metal stake, sparks flew and ignited a dry stalk of grass in his backyard. The rest was ancient history.

The Ranch fire destroyed roughly 150 homes and cost the state of California an estimated tens of millions of dollars to contain. In total, the fire burned 410,203 acres. Despite the rancher being held responsible, he was not found negligent.

Because of the drought and temperatures continuing to climb in the West Coast state, tensions are building that another mundane task such as hammering a metal stake will spark another massive wildfire throughout the region. Even though this winter was a wet one, this means more vegetation available to catch fire, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide emergency this March to help aid in the clearing of crops.

While this fire might not be the fault of the power companies, the Camp Fire was declared to have started by negligent acts of the North California utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). PG&E filed for bankruptcy this past January to protect themselves the myriad of lawsuits that would be coming their way for property damage and emotional distress.

Despite the rancher’s best efforts to put out the fire, he called 911. Emergency response services came and dropped retardant chemicals but it was too little too late. Investigators found tiny metal shards from the stake near the wasp nests which is how they came to their conclusion that is what caused the fire to start.

What Exactly Is Fire?

In the most basic sense, fire is light and heat that is produced from a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction is usually between oxygen and some sort of fuel. Common forms of fuel are wood and gasoline. Wood and gasoline don’t just become fire, in order for the chemical reaction to begin, a third ingredient is needed: heat.

The heat causes the molecules of the fuel to become unstable. Some of the molecules then begin to decompose once they reach a certain temperature. When this happens they release gases creating smoke. Some molecules are moving so quickly from the increase in temperate they “bump” into oxygen molecules cause a flame.

Fire is dangerous because it is a self-perpetuating chemical reaction. The heat of the flame will keep the chemical reaction going as long as there is still oxygen around. Flames can be different colors based on the temperature. The hotter the flame the color is usually blue, cooler flames are orange or yellow. The carbon molecules as they are heated emit light called incandescence.

The gases in the flames of fire are less dense than surrounding air which is why they move upwards towards lower pressure. This is why flames look like they are pointed at the top.

Since fire is made up of three different things, it can be put out in three different ways:

  1. Removing the fuel source or taking it away
  2. Removing the oxygen also known as smothering the fire
  3. Removing the heat by absorbing it with water

Most firefighters use water to remove heat in order to reduce the flames of a fire and prevent the chain chemical reaction from recurring. Fire extinguishers eliminate fires in two ways: by shooting water to remove heat as well as foam to help reduce oxygen.

Fires have been used by human beings for thousands of years. They have used them for heat, for light as well as to cook food. Now that we know what fire is, we can understand fire safety and prevention.


How Do Firefighters Determine The Cause Of A Blaze?

Firefighters don’t just work to extinguish fires. They also do their part to determine the starting location and cause of the blaze. Both of these are very important when determining whether or not the fire was accidental or intentional. Not only will the police want to know how the fire started–especially if the worst happened and there were fatalities or the fire spread to other homes–but insurance investigators will have questions as well. Without answers, that insurance payment won’t happen.

So how do firefighters determine the cause of a blaze?

There are a number of techniques that can help firefighters or forensic analysts find the needed information, from satellite images to chemical tests. Simple observation works, too. First, the origin point of the fire must be found. This point can be big or small. Sometimes, it can be less than a square inch in size!

Analysts use science to figure out where fuel from the fire might have originated. If outdoors, could dry pine needles have done the trick? Rare, but possible. Some materials burn more easily than others, and these are the first suspects. Because paper will burn faster than wood, smaller objects and materials are often to blame.

Firefighters often arrive on the scene before a fire can completely demolish a structure or area, in which case they can easily figure out where the hottest flames were burning. This is likely the location at which the fire started because the fire was burning there longest. How much smoke was present when firefighters arrived? What was the color of the fire? To the untrained eye it might look like determining the origin point or source of a fire is difficult, but it’s usually easier than it looks.

Once the origin point is determined, there is often physical evidence left over. If the fire originated at the stove, it won’t take long to figure out what went wrong. Cooking accident? Electrical malfunction? “Char patterns” are used to track the progress of a fire from origin point to end point. That provides investigators with a general direction, which is another trick to figure out where the fire started and what caused it.

Because of the way a fire burns–up–the starting location can be more accurately determined when not at the floor level. A fire with multiple points of origin would immediately be distinguished as arson according to a criminal defense attorney Miami.