Editorial: Closure in final fire report

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

The final report on the March 2008 fire that took the lives of two Salisbury firefighters appears to be just that ó final. People will talk about this tragedy for years, but the official safety review is over. And it found the painful truths that are already well-known.
Walls that firefighters thought were firewalls were not. No one was inside the building, yet firefighters fought offensively to save it ó to the point of sending men inside a burning building. Better operational procedures, another working hoseline and staying in closer contact all might have made a difference. The phrase “if only” comes to mind. If only they’d done this, if only they’d had that.
All the if onlys have been sadly evident as the story unfolded in earlier reports. The only thing lacking was the big one, last week’s report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control. Maybe now another level of healing can begin, another kind of closure.
The city has addressed issue after issue brought up in the report, including buying equipment that will make a difference: better radios, a tracking system for fallen firefighters, 60 sets of turnout gear, another thermal imaging camera. Procedures have been changed.
The only thing that remains would be to require sprinklers in buildings with what the report calls “heavy fire loads” ó a possibility the city should explore.
None of this will remove the psychological scars the Salisbury Millwork fire left behind, and nothing ever will. Families has suffered terrible loss. Firefighters have seen comrades go down in the line of duty, despite all their training and drills and safety procedures. They will never forget.
It’s not enough to say the Salisbury Millwork blaze taught the community valuable lessons. This fire caused a lot of hurt. But safety experts have investigated it to the nth degree, and the city has taken action. That will have to do for now.