There is nothing worse than accidently causing a fire to your home or apartment. The damage big and small, the horror, the insurance deductible, the temporary living arrangements, the injury or death of a person or pet, and the anger over screwing up so badly. No one takes it lightly. Yet, Madison thinks you need to be penalized. We need government to educate us, to tell us how wrong we were, and fine us to boot. Here are the stunning details:
Cap Times: A proposed new ordinance would prohibit what it calls "negligent cooking" in Madison, making it punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. We're talking about the kind of negligence that makes cooking mishaps the leading cause of fires in Madison and nationally -- the sort of things that happen when somebody in the kitchen does something really, really stupid.
Alarmed? I was too when I saw the proposal on the agenda for the Tuesday meeting of (take a deep breath) the Building Code, Fire Code, Conveyance Code and Licensing Appeals Board.
But the measure's backers say that the aim is not to be punitive, but to educate … the rules make it clear that lapses in the kitchen that lead to a fire should add up to egregious neglect or recklessness to be cited. "We aren't going to punish somebody just because they made a mistake," says Ald. Paul Skidmore, a co-sponsor. "This is not Draconian. We are just trying to make Madison more safe."
Skidmore's jaw dropping reasoning is mind numbing. Many years ago I made up my own phrase to describe liberals in this city as suffering from "Madisensitivity." This goes way over the top.
Cooking mishaps cause more fires in Madison than anything else including heating or electrical system problems or smoking, Madison fire department officials say. Nationally, fire departments respond to an average of 155,400 home fires involving cooking equipment every year. They cause an average of $771 million in property damage, 4,800 injuries, and 390 deaths each year, according to the NFPA.
The hope is that the new ordinance, which Fire Marshall Ed Ruckriegel thinks could be a first in the state and even the country, will act as a deterrent. "You can't legislate against stupidity. But you can legislate against negligence," says Ruckriegel, who compares the proposed crackdown to laws against drunk driving.
And to justify the insane insult to the victims of accidental fires...well, you won't believe it:
And if you think this is too strict, he adds, there are some places in Asia where villagers who start cooking fires are kicked out of town. Having them around is considered too much of a risk.
"We knew this would be controversial," Ruckriegel says. "It's a tough concept for people because so many people have had close calls when it comes to cooking. But this is about raising awareness and starting a community conversation." Supporters don't have a lot of patience for the argument that people shouldn't be penalized for an accident. "You could say that same sort of thing about many other things, that you didn't mean to speed or blow past the stop sign, or that you're really sorry you hit the pedestrian in the crosswalk," says Ruckriegel.
(Tuesday's committee meeting will be held at 12:15 in Room LL100 of the City County building at 215 Martin Luther King. Jr. Blvd.)