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24 Russell Street, Acushnet MA, 02743


ACUSHNET Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher proposes a bylaw that would ultimately afford his firefighters increased protection when they are called to battle flames in commercial/industrial buildings of truss construction.

"This is designed for firefighter safety," Chief Gallagher told the selectmen. "Danger lurks in many aspects of truss construction, as opposed to rafters in floors and ceilings, in which the parts are pre-engineered prior to construction."

The chief said fabricated trusses are reliable, affordable, pre-engineered and a way to keep commercial construction costs in check. The problem comes during a fire. It does not take much for a single truss to burn through or fail. And that, he added, means the entire system collapses.  "What happens?" he said. "They can fail early and without warning."

The proposed bylaw would require commercial/industrial facilities with trusses to place an emblem on the building's exterior to warn firefighters. The emblem would include a red circle and an 11 above the letters FR.

"You can never tell who's going to be in charge at a fire," Chief Gallagher said. "We need more tools to make sound strategic decisions and for greater firefighter safety. There would be no cost to the town or building owner."

Chief Gallagher said funds from fire-code citations would be used to buy emblems. He said warnings would not extend to residential properties, although that might evolve through a public education campaign and voluntary participation.

The chief said a similar law took effect in New York in 2005. He said it is law in parts of New Jersey and in Chesapeake, Va.  The selectmen embraced the idea.

"It's a no-brainer," selectmen Chairman Robert F. Brown said. "I'm glad it doesn't have a cost. It's a good idea. I can't see many buildings being constructed without trusses."  The selectmen sent the proposal to the Bylaw Review Committee to prepare it for the April Town Meeting warrant.

Chief Gallagher said firefighters will go door-to-door and work with Building Inspector John Roza, who helped write the bylaw, to explain the proposal and try to interest homeowners in it.

Mr. Brown, the former building commissioner, said trusses are used in bigger, more open buildings.  He said that if one truss fails during a fire, the entire support system fails.




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