By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 24, 2023) — With more than 50 years of fire safety experience between them, Fort Leonard Wood Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Curtis and Fire Inspector Olaf Jensen are two valuable individuals to collaborate with when designing a new facility.
Their knowledge and experience paid off earlier this year, when they discovered a problem in the design of the grease duct in the dining facility kitchen ceiling at the new hospital construction site — and the two, along with the contractors and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel making up the collaborative team that solved the problem, 26 individuals in total, were presented with what’s called the Gold Bond Award, during a quarterly senior executive board meeting July 27 here.
The award is unique to this hospital project and, as it reads, is intended to recognize exceptional efforts to address or avoid tension, conflict or friction on the project, said Mark French, USACE Quality Assurance Section chief for the project.
“The Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department has collaborated with USACE for years, from participating in design reviews to construction inspections,” French said. “Assistant Chief Curtis and Inspector Jensen are firm advocates of the life safety code and maintain strict enforcement. We appreciate their dedication, partnership and collaboration with us and their desire to keep the Fort Leonard Wood infrastructure and community safe.”
Curtis said he and Jensen noticed the initial design didn’t meet standards during an inspection in January.
Jensen added grease would’ve built up over time if the design hadn’t been improved.
“We would’ve eventually had a fire in the duct system,” he said, noting the dining facility is located on the ground floor. “That fire would’ve gone all the way up to the roof.”
Curtis called the team effort to bring together a solution with no delays in the overall project “phenomenal.”
“It was a team effort from the get-go, in the identification all the way through the process,” he said. “This was a bang-up job for us, contractors and the government working hand-in-hand — and no delay in the process, which is phenomenal.”
Home fire safety tips
With cooking safety being the theme for this year’s upcoming Fire Prevention Week — Oct. 8 to 14 — Curtis also offered some tips for the Fort Leonard Wood community, regarding individual kitchen fire safety best practices. He said the leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking, and he cited a National Fire Protection Association estimation, which stated fire departments across the country annually respond to about 170,000 home fires caused by cooking. These fires caused an estimated 135 deaths, 3,000 injuries and more than $494 million in property loss, Curtis said.
“By following a few safety tips, you can prevent these fires,” he added.
Curtis’ tips included:
- be alert — if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop;
- stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food.,
- if you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind yourself that you are cooking;
- keep anything that can catch fire, including oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains, away from the stovetop; and
- have a child-free zone of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
Curtis added if a cooking fire starts:
- get out, and close the door when leaving to help contain the fire;
- call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after leaving;
- if you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out;
- keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires, and smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop — leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled; and
- for an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission