Thursday, May 30, 2013

New windows guard against fires, city says

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 8:19 PM

Mount Saint Francis Waldo Canyon Fire
  • Fountain Fire Department
  • Here's the scene in Mountain Shadows on June 26 as residents of Mount Saint Francis further north were being evacuated.

One of the more strange bid postings of late on the city's procurement website calls for requests for proposals for replacement of windows at the Mount Saint Francis nursing facility.

Bids are due June 21 for a job that could cost several hundred thousand dollars. No city money is being spent. The work will be funded mostly with a Federal Emergency Management Agency Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant, with the Sisters of Saint Francis providing a 25 percent match.

Here's the posting:

Removal of existing non historic storm windows/ Installation of new storm windows
a. Remove and retain all existing storm windows for Owner review
b. Repair any damage from removal work to material surrounding windows, including masonry and
mortar repair. If repairs to masonry and mortar are required, a mortar analysis will be performed by the Contractor
c. Install new exterior storm windows, following interior and exterior window rehabilitation

We asked the city about this and received an extensive explanation via e-mail from Christina Randall, wildfire mitigation administrator in the Fire Department's fire marshal office.

Mount Saint Francis Waldo Canyon Fire
  • Mount Saint Francis will get new windows, thanks to FEMA.

We've obliged her request that dollar amounts not be divulged until bids have been submitted.

We began this project working with MSF many years ago - we started with fuels mitigation on over 50 acres. We were originally approached by the facilities director and the sisters, as they were concerned about wildfire and evac for 113 patients, (mostly severe dementia, cardiac and respiratory conditions.) We received FEMA grants for the mitigation work. Not only did it benefit patients, residents and staff at MSF, but the surrounding homes.

They also upgraded their fire systems (fire doors, HVAC and sprinklers) for improved safety on their own expense. We pursued a FEMA grant for a structural retrofit for windows in the event there was no time to evacuate the nursing center. There was never a grant awarded for structural retrofit for wildfire in the country - so it was a long shot and didn't think we would get it. To my surprise, we were awarded the grant. We knew that besides fire access through the wooden, single pane windows that smoke would also have a severe impact on the patients.

The grant is in the amount of $xxxk from a FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant. The sisters of MSF are also contributing the 25% match of $xxk and then my time (less than 10%) to administer. CSFD has also committed PSST funds as I started this project to replace windows, how hard could it be, right? Well my degree is in Natural Resource Management and 30 years in fuels and fire, not construction or architecture. So I had to get some help. Once we went through a long historical analysis, it got more complex. Matching the historical fabric and preserving as much historical integrity as possible. I had to utilize funds to hire a historic architect to survey the building and another architect to draw up the construction documents. Totaling $18k. (Which has been a bargain considering the long drawn out process dealing with federal guidelines and conditions for historic buildings. We are going on 3 years into this process.)

Now with the sequester, the PDM grants have dried up, so it will be a long time before another opportunity like this happens again. We are just trying to do the right thing by the patients, but it also benefits the surrounding neighborhood and fire fighters in the long run. If we are not in an evac / rescue mode, fire fighters can work directly on the fire. That was the intent.

Right now the contract RFP is out, and I would ask to not disclose the grant amounts as it is a competitive process and we don't know what the bid amounts will come in at. After the project is awarded, we can announce the amount.

Mount Saint Francis' residents were evacuated as the Waldo Canyon Fire threatened to come into the city on June 26. The new windows might allow sheltering in place, Randall says, although there's no guarantee.

She notes in a subsequent e-mail:

We cannot 100% prevent fire from entering, but it can help reduce the chance of fire entering the building by adding another window. It will also address smoke. There were several treatment options looked at for this project from replacing windows to adding internal or external storms. The architects did find out that the windows are functioning very well. FEMA and the Colorado Historical Society approved external storm windows, so that option was selected.

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