OPINION: Ceremony Highlights Fire Safety Legislation - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: Ceremony Highlights Fire Safety Legislation

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

Numerous volunteer and career firemen, chiefs, captains and EMS workers gathered in Annapolis Thursday to witness the signing by Governor O’Malley of House Bill 785 – the Cigarette Fire Safety Performance Standard and Firefighter Protection Act.

This was a high priority for the fire and rescue workers during this year’s General Assembly Session.

Prior to the bill signing, the Governor, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch all participated in a celebration of the passage of the bill. They expressed their gratitude for the service these brave men and women provide to our families and friends.

Speaker Busch recounted the horrible events of September 11, 2001 in New York City and the Pentagon when frightened victims were running away, fire and rescue workers were running in, some never to return.

That’s the type of dedication all of our fire and rescue workers devote throughout our great State. We can be assured that they will do everything they can to save us in our greatest times of peril.

House Bill 785 (Chapter 497) bill prohibits cigarettes from being manufactured, sold, or offered for sale in Maryland unless they have been tested and meet strong performance standard and the manufacturer has filed written certification with the Comptroller that each cigarette has been tested. When I voted for this bill, I was reminded of the terrible fire in Solomons that was started by a slow burning cigarette, according to the fire marshal’s office. That single cigarette wiped out two beloved restaurants and on that particular day, could have wiped out the entire island had it not been for the fast work of our fire and rescue personnel.

This legislation passed with just one dissenting vote because the legislature realized how important this bill was. Currently five other states have enacted bills adopting the same fire safety standards for cigarettes.

The background of this bill began on December 31, 2003 when the State of New York adopted fire safety standards for cigarettes sold in the State. Any cigarette sold in New York has to be certified as low-ignition strength, which means that it has a greater capacity for being extinguished faster if left unattended. The standards require that all cigarette brands sold in New York be tested to determine that at least 75 percent of the cigarettes self-extinguish before burning the full length. The tests must be conducted every three years.

Maryland’s bill will do just that.

On a related note, it has come to my attention that more work is to be done on the grounds of the Maryland Fire-Rescue Service Memorial. I was the first legislator to buy a memorial brick at this magnificent structure – the first you see when you drive into the state complex in Annapolis.

The Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Memorial Foundation still needs your financial help by making an individual or business donation to make this top-rate memorial even better. Currently, there are plans to enhance the site by installing an irrigation system that will keep the flowers and shrubbery that surround the memorial alive. Additional sidewalks, shrubbery and flowers will also enhance the site.

You can show your support for the Memorial and our fire and rescue workers in several ways. You can honor someone by purchasing a brick for $100 or any charitable or business group can buy ascending sizes of bricks for as much as $50,000. To donate to this tax-deductible organization, send your purchase to the Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Memorial Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 706; Annapolis, MD or make an online contribution by going to http://mdfirerescuehero.org – the Memorial’s site.

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