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What Does a Fire Survivor Really Want? – Burn Me Once - Don’t Burn Me Again

The annual Texas Fire Marshals Conference was held this week in San Marcos, Texas, and KaitKares was invited as a guest speaker. The title of the presentation was “What Does a Fire Survivor Really Want? – Burn Me Once - Don’t Burn Me Again.”

Fire Chiefs, Fire Marshals, Firefighters from all over the great state of Texas attended the annual Texas Fire Marshals Conference this past week held in San Marcos, Texas. Guest speakers included two fire survivor families from Austin and San Marcos, Texas and 4 Fire Chiefs from Plano, Frisco/San Marcos, San Antonio, and Grapevine, Texas. Each Fire Chief presented amendments that were initiated, implemented, and adopted into code for each of their cities. What an informative session! Hopefully we can share these successfully adopted codes with our local, state, and national legislative representatives.

Chief David Kerr Melissa/(Retired) Plano, Texas

Moderated the presentation as he initiated the first Multifamily Retrofit Ordinance in Texas – “Burn Me Once-Don’t Burn Me Twice” adopted amendment (2008 in Plano, TX). The intent of this amendment is to increase the protection of life and property by retrofitting fire sprinklers in buildings that would require them today as if if were a new building. It is to address significant fires that displace one or more occupants for an extended duration while the unit/building is reconstructed. If a fire sprinkler had been in place prior to a fire event, a significant fire would have been avoided. Since adoption in 2008, over 20 existing buildings have been retrofitted with sprinklers.

Chief Kelly Kistner Frisco Fire Department/ San Marcos Fire Department May 2018 – July 2021

Chief Kistner was the brand-new fire marshal in San Marcos (having just served for 3 months) when the Iconic Village fire happened on July 20, 2018, in San Marcos with 5 off campus Texas State University students not surviving/ Chief Kistner initiated and completed a property inventory and risk assessment of all Residential properties in San Marcos in 2018. Inspection schedule was based on risk. City leadership and the San Marcos City Council approved an annual inspection program with two additional inspectors and OT budget to supplement with Op’s inspectors. Multiple meetings were conducted with property management. Average inspections were seven (most were14) to bring up to code. The Plano Code amendment was adopted as well as codes requiring fire extinguishers in each unit and in all Common areas, and no heat producing devices on balconies or within 15 feet of a structure.

Chief Christopher Monestier San Antonio Texas

Castle Hills Texas experienced a deadly high-rise fire December 30, 2015 at the Wedgwood Towers which was being operated as a senior living facility. Chief Monestier coordinated a Stakeholder Process to consider new fire protection strategies which included inventory, inspection, education and the possibility of a high rise retrofit ordinance. The San Antonio Public safety committee approved a feasibility study. The San Antonio High Rise Stakeholder group was established with 35 buildings identified as non-sprinklered high rises. Multiple meetings were held with the diverse group of stakeholders, and a 12-year phase in plan was adopted. 1 year would require a complete letter of intent, 3 years would have the plan submitted, 6 years would have a water supply established, 9 years half of the building would be retrofitted and in 13 years full compliance. Of the 35 buildings, 3 are 100% complete, 5 are 50% sprinklered and 8 are at the 6-year mark.

Chief Bryan Parker Grapevine Texas

Grapevine City Council Implemented a Downtown Historical Fire Protection Retrofit program to install fire sprinklers in all historical district buildings. The City of Grapevine met with local business owners, educated them about fire safety and prevention and the importance of fire sprinkler installation. The business owners were offered a low interest loan to install fire sprinklers in the entire block of the historic district, which was agreed upon and completed. The response was overwhelming because the insurance incentives offered for a sprinklered building paid for it. It was a win win for all.

Zach and DJ Sutterfield, San Marcos Iconic Village Fire Survivors

Zach was one of the few survivors from the Iconic Village apartment fire has had 32 surgeries to date and a traumatic brain injury. He and his mom DJ were guest speakers. Their courage to speak out, share their story, and advocate for fire safety and prevention is unprecedented. Please follow them on Zach Sutterfield’s recovery page and support their non-profit “Brighter than the Fire.” It is an honor to partner with them and share our mission. Together we hope and pray to make a change so that no family should ever have to experience the pain and suffering we have endured and continue to endure.

KaitKares would like to extend a special thank you to Cindy Giedraitis and her team at NFSA for inviting us to share our story. It is truly an honor to be a part of this journey for retrofit legislate and Fire safety advocacy.

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