By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
What is the story behind the big X above the door on the Fourth Street side of the Newcomb Hotel?
Fire Chief Joe Henning says a program that was implemented this summer allows the Quincy Fire Department to help label vacant buildings, with the purpose of giving firefighters basic information regarding building safety.
A building marked with an "X" means it has significant safety issues, and entry into the building should only be done under consideration for the need of rescue or if it is determined that the fire is small enough that it can be contained quickly and safely.
"An ‘X' means ‘Don't go in,' " Henning said. "I would never say that we absolutely won't go into a building, so if you think you can get in there, then there's a judgment call by the commander to be made. However, if you see an ‘X,' there are significant issues.
"The Newcomb has a lot of floors that have holes in there, and that's not a good environment for a firefighter to walk into."
The Newcomb is the only building in the city with an "X." The former Jefferson School building at Second and Oak is the only other building marked as part of the program, and it is marked with a slash. Henning said a slash means the building has potential safety issues beyond what might normally be expected, and that crews are to enter with caution.
The program is part of the International Fire Code, and volunteer Wes Beitl brought it to the attention of the Quincy Fire Department. Henning said Beitl, who came to Quincy from Springfield, has a background in fire safety prevention. Beitl approached former Fire Chief Scott Walker about ways he could help the department.
"Wes did an assessment of abandoned and vacant buildings, and he spent doing three years on the project, looking at buildings and putting together a spreadsheet," Henning said. "This is purely from an exterior perspective."
Henning met with Travis Brown, executive director of the Historic Quincy Business District, about the program earlier this year.
"Now I've got Wes going out and re-evaluating his work," Henning said. "We're not looking to blanket the city but just know the buildings we have issues with."
Before a label is affixed to a building, a letter is sent to the building owners to inform them of the department's plans. Henning says he believes "maybe three or four more" buildings will be labeled this year.
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