Fire code kills Rhode Island's Christmas tree
By Ray Henry
Published December 23, 2005
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- It's a Charlie Brown Christmas for Rhode Island's official Christmas tree.
The 18-foot Colorado blue spruce lost its needles and died after workers at the State House dried it with fans and sprayed it with a fire-retardant chemical. The workers were following the stringent new fire code enacted after a nightclub blaze in Rhode Island nearly three years ago killed 100 people.
The pathetic-looking tree was hustled out of the building Wednesday night. Gov. Donald Carcieri sheepishly explained the tree's demise and suggested the state might get an artificial replacement next year.
"With the new fire code, we're supposed to spray it," he told WPRO-AM. "And apparently the spray killed it."
Rhode Island law designates Christmas trees as "flammable vegetation" and regulates their display in public buildings. Until recently, Christmas trees in public buildings had to be doused with fire retardant, said Tom Coffey, executive director of the Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review.
The state lifted that requirement on Dec. 6, Coffey said, but that was too late for the State House tree, which was put up Nov. 25.
Lawmakers overhauled the fire code after the February 2003 blaze at a West Warwick nightclub. At first the code banned Christmas trees in public buildings, but tree farmers fought this year to have that section removed in exchange for safeguards that include posting the tree's watering schedule nearby.
Al Bettencourt, executive director of Rhode Island's Farm Bureau, and a team of farmers rushed Thursday to get a replacement tree.
"This one will not be sprayed," promised Steve Kass, a spokesman for the governor.
For a little background:
RI suffered a HUGE blow when The Station Nightclub burned to the ground on Thursday, 2/20/2003.
The fire was caused by a pyrotechnic display accompanying the 80's band Great White's performance.
If I am not mistaken, it is the 4th worst fire in US history in the number of deaths and casualties.
They have adopted the strictest Fire code in the country because of it. Lawsuits are rampant (everyone is getting sued: band, promoters, club owners, sponsors---including Budweiser) and LOTS of people's heads have rolled. I can tell you, as the wife of a fire alarm/supression specialist, the repercussions are STILL being felt.
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