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Do local clubs measure up?



Published: Sat, February 22, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Once in a while, pyrotechnics are used at Powers Auditorium.

VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT

Youngstown Fire Department inspectors are once again walking through nightspots to ensure that exit doors are not locked, fire extinguishers are on hand and crowds don't exceed capacity.

Deaths this week in a stampede at a Chicago club and from a fire ignited by a pyrotechnics display at a Rhode Island bar point to the need for random nighttime inspections, said Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr.

"It's been a while since we did nighttime runs," he said Friday. O'Neill said Chief Inspector Hubert Clardy suggested, after 21 died in Chicago, that inspectors make surprise checks of the bars, mostly on Market Street, that draw big weekend crowds.

"He said we needed to go back to putting inspectors on Fridays and Saturdays, walking through the bars," O'Neill said. "We started this weekend." Inspectors, O'Neill said, typically check out buildings on day shift.

O'Neill said the nighttime weekend plan was in place before the deadly Thursday night bar fire in Rhode Island.

Door locked

The fire chief recalled that one Market Street bar used to lock its back door, concerned that patrons would sneak in to avoid the cover charge. The door now remains open during business hours, he said.

O'Neill said Powers Auditorium occasionally uses small pyrotechnic displays for shows. Permits are required and YFD inspectors monitor them closely, staying after shows to ensure they are safely extinguished. "There's no way I would sign a pyrotechnics permit for a small bar," O'Neill said.

Capt. Gary Brown of the Niles Fire Department said he checks to make sure clubs like McMenamy's, a restaurant and banquet facility on U.S. Route 422, comply with occupancy limits and things like keeping exits open and clearly marked.

"That was the problem in Chicago. One exit was blocked and another one was not marked," he said.

He also makes sure that a periodic check of the alarm system is done, and that the owners have a company test fire extinguishers.

Joe D'Andrea, general manager of McMenamy's, said workers make sure when bands or disc jockeys perform that they do not set up in front of any exit doors.

MetroPlex issues

Liberty Fire Chief Michael Durkin and department inspector Capt. Ron Stauffer are working on safety concerns with Choices, in the Holiday Inn MetroPlex at Belmont Avenue and Interstate 80.

Durkin said fire officials just met with the hotel people to discuss escape plans and other issues and they plan to conduct a mock drill with employees of the hotel and Choices soon.

He said Choices has been complying with capacity restrictions, and one band was forced to remove its pyrotechnic devices recently because they were improperly set up.

Austintown Fire Chief Andrew Frost said pyrotechnics wouldn't be allowed in the township's bars and clubs.

He added that fire inspectors have been checking about six times a year to make sure The Mill club on South Raccoon Road is safe. Frost said the inspectors have made sure crowds have access to exits.

Banned, but it happened

Pyrotechnics are banned at all indoor shows in Sharon, said Fire Chief Arthur Scarmack, adding that there are no actual dance clubs in Sharon.

The closest thing to it would be the Hot Rod Cafe in the Three By the River complex on Connelly Boulevard, and that's more of a bar-restaurant atmosphere, Scarmack said.

Scarmack was surprised to learn that a band that has played at Hot Rod in the recent past did use pyrotechnic devices on stage.

Manager Bob Mentrek said he didn't know it had happened and it isn't something the establishment condones. It won't happen again, he said.

Scarmack said he will make sure that is the case.

Scarmack said Sharon follows the National Building Officials & amp; Administrators Code regarding building safety and structural requirements.

Places are required to have fire extinguishers and emergency lighting as well as lighting for emergency exits powered by a source separate from the building's main electrical system.

New Castle's codes

Nunzie Bonfield, assistant chief of the New Castle Fire Department, said establishments in the city must meet both general fire laws and fire codes established by the city and state, and both are strictly enforced.

Those laws establish how many exits an establishment must have and where they are located.

Fire Chief Jim Donston said occupancy varies depending on the size of the establishment and its layout, for example, if it has a dance floor.

Bonfield said anyone wishing to discharge pyrotechnics indoors or outdoors anywhere in the city must have the permission of the fire department and show proof of at least $1 million in insurance.

He said the Scottish Rite Cathedral on Lincoln Avenue, and two nightspots, Shad's on Butler Avenue and The Bomb Shelter on Mill Street, are large enough that pyrotechnics could be used indoors, but none has ever requested to do so.

He said firefighters inspect buildings annually. Among the duties of the inspector are to also search for electrical problems, clutter and other safety hazards.

Salem has no regulations of its own governing nightclubs and other places where crowds might congregate, a fire department spokesman there said. Owners of such businesses are referred to Ohio Fire Code regulations.




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