Salute Our Heroes: TFD Inspector being proactive to ensure safety in community

Topeka Fire Dept. Inspector Chad Holthaus
Topeka Fire Dept. Inspector Chad Holthaus(WIBW)
Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:35 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka Fire Department Inspector Chad Holthaus makes sure local businesses, contractors and property managers are aware of their safety hazards. He wants to educate them for the future -- not just solving the problem at hand.

“This is a team effort because we’re only in there one time of the year. You’re there 365 days out of the year. So if I can help you to understand why it’s important that that fire door isn’t propped open, then if you can understand that then your more apt to comply with that throughout the year and make sure that your staff understands that door needs to remain shut.”

He told one story about how he gets the point across -- especially to apartment complex staff. He said once he and his crew ran into the second floor of a three story building to the first unit where a fire came from -- but the door was left open.

“So now it introduced smoke and fire into that second floor hallway. So you’ve basically eliminated that hallway from anyone on the second floor to exit out of. Not only did it to do that, once they went into the stairwell, the door to the stairwell didn’t shut” he said. “So now it introduced smoke and fire into all three stories in that end of the stairwell. So now you’ve basically taken all of these units and you’ve given them one stairwell to get out of and that’s if you can get through the smoke that was on the second floor.”

They had to rescue people from the second and third floor balconies.

“When I’m trying to explain to property managers or maintenance why it’s so important that these doors shut, I always bring them to that story because it was really an eye opening experience for me looking back on it now as an inspector just how that fire and smoke spreads through that building.”

Being inspector means being proactive rather than waiting for the alarm and reacting. Which loses some adrenaline and that instant gratification on the job, but as a public servant, he said the most important thing is to make sure the community is safe.

“Everybody in this community has a mom, dad, kids, aunts and uncles, people we love so they go into all these businesses we have in town, whether it’s shopping somewhere or visiting a restaurant. I want to make sure that wherever my family goes in this town that the buildings are safe for them to be in and if something does happen they can get out safely.”

Last week’s Fire Prevention Week focused on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. You should listen for continuous three loud beeps which means there is smoke or a fire present -- 9-1-1 and stay out. A single chirp every 30-60 seconds means the battery is low and needs changed. If chirping sounds continue after replacing the battery, the whole unit must be replaced.

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