Sunday, November 10, 2013

A controversial Fire Official Who while doing Good caused a lot of Bad Problems that linger to this day.

Monroeville Pa was the community where the late  Dan Aston held court as Fire Official  for many years you either loved him or hated him. He was a fire official not a Fire Marshal like every other community.
I hated him because of all the problems he caused my self and other Fire Alarm Installers and property owners there.
Instead of solving problems he caused them.Yes he was very educated and came up with formulas still used in fire service when dealing with calculating fire loads for sprinklers etc but he has also caused a deadly legacy as well because he refused to even except he could be wrong on something .Especially with electrical he was like a fish out of water and was making bad rulings which I had to have him overridden on several times .

The first dealings with Dan
where with the Blue Moon Motel a seedy place along Monroeville blvd now bulldozed and a shopping center .The old AC only Faraday  panel had to be tied to the dispatch center via leased line . I figured out how to do it and it took forever to get a call back from Dan my uncle a fire capt in Crafton finally interceded and got hold of him for me and any time you talked to Dan it was like an interrogation it was one way and one way only even if he was totally wrong about the code  he was God .  Dan was a big pusher of NFPA and then what would become the ICC codes  known as BOCA in an attempt to make Monoreville safe from fires as the community was greatly expanding its commercial and retail area. Although he succeeded he has left a legacy of very bad issues behind him , still haunting to this day.  Of course there are still those who idolize him not realizing the problems he has caused.

Take the Demarco Durzo Building  on Mosside Blvd. I Installed the fire alarm and took care of  it for many years  till a very rude management company came in and got rid of  all existing service providers including me they where using there own people.
One of the first issues  with Dan was since the IRS had a service division  in the building they required the sprinkler system   shut off valves and fire alarm send a trouble signal to the receiving authority  and this was done by way of a leased line reverse polarity circuit to the dispatchers in monroeville municipal building.
Dan said NO  .
The NFPA code only required him to take alarm not trouble signals. A very big and very wrong dissension  on his part . Because he would not except those signals any arsonist or any one else with criminal intent could disable a fire system and destroy a building.
Well I had to go and tell the IRS agents he would not except trouble signals. After they and GAO office got hold of him he begrudgingly said yes . Now this was before UL listed and recognized digital Phone dialers with a daily test on dial up phone lines where all signals had to go to Monroeville.

Today the NFPA still does not require you to transmit sprinkler shut off valves  signals you can just lock them with chain and pad lock but the ICC codes require it realizing all the arson fires and alarm systems in general which are not being properly maintained.
Every Fire system I have ever installed and still maintain send trouble signals and it has saved lives.
This would not be the only D&D building issue with Dan. when they added on the new addition the new ADA code was now in place in all new construction  and as I figured out the plans and submitted them I did them to ADA standard
Like I told the building owner Dr. Durzo we need to follow this code  and I am sure Dan will be enforcing it since all the other fire Marshals where looking for it. Well it was a sunny afternoon where standing outside the building addition being put in and up rides Dan to look at the plans and check work and he starts mother fucking me out in the parking lot about he does not enforce ADA and will have nothing to do it and why did I tell doc he did. When I told him I thought he would , as every one else was following it  and we needed to do it here because  we had federal offices inside.  He said he was not everyone else and to hell with ADA that's up to feds to check not  him. Fine I said and when it comes back and bites you in the ass remember who told you so.
 He stormed off the lot and left in a huff. What he did not realize was an GOA inspector was on property and heard the whole argument. He came down wanted to know who this individual was I told him and later that week a GAO inspector in a wheel chair was sent around Monroeville and a bunch of new buildings where found not to be in compliance and owners where forced to make expensive retrofits all because Dan did not agree with the ADA laws. Yes he was right he did not have to enforce it but he had an obligation to tell them they needed to follow these rules and check them out  after that incident all plans where stamped approved only for fire and to check that ADA rules may be enforced by others.  It was shortly after this he left his position for a while as all the ghosts where now coming and haunting him .He even had some one plant an explosive under his Fire officials car and blow it up. That's when he was having a feud with the late Al Monzo  over his unapproved helipad at his hotel and everyone said Al was behind it but no one was ever charged I do not think Al had any thing to do with it he was too classy a guy to do something like that. .  He had so many building owners mad at him at that point it could have been any one of them. . There was also the issue with him wanting a sprinkler head over an electric furnace in the  building which an electrical inspector overruled him and they made him move it.The electrical inspectors where always arguing with Dan as well. I remember the day him and late Harry Kwalick got into it at a Dr.s office I was doing which was built like a Igloo. Dan wanted a sprinkler head over the electrical equipment and harry said no and overruled him.

But as I finished  D&D building that winter
I would soon butt heads again with Dan and this time it would prove to his detriment .
I was Hired to Install the fire alarms and do  Electrical repairs at Strafford village which was to become
Birnam Woods.
Well things went smooth and Dan actually liked the idea I came up with to use the McCullough loop instead of the Main Annunciation panel which would slow Fire fighter response first having to go there to find out where the fire was but yes Dan was back at it again. We had to drill holes in cinder block fire walls for some hook ups and when you drilled the holes we put electrical putty around them to seal them to stop fire spread we did this every where but no this was not what Dan wanted he made us run the wires thru a piece of pipe  which was run thru the hole in the wall and no back filling with fire proof  putty. We did this in all the buildings and as study's have proved this putting wires thru a pipe first was the wrong thing to do.  Yes there are pipe seals for fire walls available today but they have special fittings which expand and choke off flames what Dan did in effect was to create a Flame Thrower by making us run wire thru these pipe sections and not back filling them with either putty or fire proof cement.

Then there was a problem with the  8 upper apartment units which where all electric  no gas heat.
This was a big issue several times during the project we had problems where electric furnace heaters overheated and started fires. Dan's answer put 3/4 drywall around the units to protect the apartments if they malfunctioned. This was not a solution it created an even bigger danger the problem was these units where improperly installed they should have had a fan sail switch which would only allow heaters on if fan was running and there should have been fuse links in heater line to open as well if unit over heated  I went to refrigeration and air conditioning school and pointed this out to Dan he would hear none of it  put in the dry wall  even thou it violated manufacturers rules it was too close and a very fateful decision as an apartment building up there would have a major fire  that would require rebuilding the buildings and he was faulted with not doing a proper job of preventing the fire.I read the report and it was very critical of Dan's Decisions with the property they also cited the pipes with wire thru them as allowing fire to spread.
Ken who helped me during the renovations stayed on as a maintenance man and would give me updates on the property after we finished and all the problems caused by Dan that kept showing up and he showed me the report he got a copy of it  from management.

Then one day a customer  of mine who owned apartments in Monroeville was told he needed fire alarms . I found a 4 zone panel made by NAPCO which would work perfect submitted plans  etc to Dan's office and I get a phone call no this panel is no good is not commercial fire UL listed etc. I am like what the hell are you talking about .I had to call NAPCO and there chief engineer had to call and berate him for saying the panel did not pass got a follow up call everything was OK. Dan was gone from office by time we got complex finished and the officials who came out  where very happy with the work .

I thought that was it with Dan till I ran across him at a Fireman's Parade in Kittaning  where he starts yelling at me about getting him sued over allowing ADT to use phone lines in the Birnam woods project
I am like Dan what the fuck are you talking about  I have not serviced Birnam since they sold the property.
Bad place for him to start his shit with me a bunch of my friends from Kittaning Area came over and where ready to pound him but he apologized got in his car and left in a huff.

Thought that was it he was no longer in Monroeville  but was now working in nearby a town I never did work in. but an electrician friend called and said he needed help with an alarm yes in that town I told him yes I would help but keep my name out of it I drew up plans etc got them stamped but Dan made him put system smoke detectors in each of these section 8 apartments something I tried to tell them was bad news there would be constant false alarms and besides the buildings sprinklered but acting on Dan's insistence this was way to go we did it and this site has been nothing but headaches with false alarms from pull stations being maliciously pulled which we wanted to eliminate code does not require them to  smokes going off from cooking and illegal pot smoke  . Yes what a mess. But that's what Dan wanted and Wilkinsburg wanted and now regrets. But they still want them that way. I have proposed eliminating the system smokes in apartments change them to system heats and putting in 10 year battery units  to help stop some of the alarms  but no dice. Now that major changes have  has taken place in the  dept and is constantly running there hopefully they will change there minds.
and allow me to reduce calls  for them. Funny how Pa. Fireman's ran an exact article about how bad an idea it is to have system smokes in apartments by Retired Chief Angone

Dan ended up back in Monoreville where he retired  from and he has since passed away.

While Dan had many good ideas and did a good deal to protect Monroeville as It grew  he has also left a legacy of problems behind him. some people claim he was on the take when he allowed so many things to be passed at Birnam Woods and signed off on the problem ridden project but I never saw proof of it.
You still hear plenty of story's about Dan even to this day  from older installers and building owners.
When Dan held Court.

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