Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on May 1, 2021.

Still Hot

Hot work fires continue to occur on construction sites and at private homes. NFPA's training is here to help.

Sparks generated from welding ignited at least six fires in the United States and Canada during the last week in March alone, according to various news reports. These fires claimed one man’s life, caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and challenged the firefighting crews that responded.

“As soon as we got it under control, it started getting hotter and hotter and hotter,” one firefighter who responded to a blaze sparked by welding in Pompano Beach, Florida, told reporters from 7 News Miami.

According to the NFPA report “Fires in Structures Under Construction or Renovation,” published last year, welding and other hot work activities are responsible for about 7 percent of the fires that occur in buildings under construction in the US each year and about 9 percent of fires in buildings under renovation—that’s over one a day. Many more hot work fires occur at private homes, often when homeowners take on renovation projects themselves.

Since 2016, NFPA has offered an online certificate program on hot work safety. NFPA developed the program following the deaths of two Boston firefighters in a blaze sparked by hot work in 2014, and since 2018 the state of Massachusetts has required everyone who performs hot work to be certified. Experts hope the program will continue to grow in the future.

“The NFPA Hot Work Safety Certificate Program is a great way for communities and states to endorse and promote the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem,” said David Hollinger, director of fire and emergency services at Drexel University, who also serves as the chair of the technical committee for NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work.

Hollinger said he hopes jurisdictions will follow the lead of Boston and Massachusetts in embracing the training. “It’s a ready-made certification model that authorities having jurisdiction can adopt to reduce community risk,” he said. “It assists in mitigating loss of life and property and can be used by a multitude of stakeholders to safeguard worksites.”

In 2018, Hollinger, alongside NFPA 51B staff liaison Laura Moreno, delivered a presentation on hot work safety at NFPA’s annual Conference & Expo. One thing he discovered in creating the presentation is that fires aren’t the only problem associated with hot work—workers who are simply not being educated about fire safety can burden communities’ emergency response systems. “Fire departments routinely have to respond to incidents as a result of hot work operations failing to meet compliance,” Hollinger said.

The hot work safety training teaches participants about the key requirements found in NFPA 51B, including the need to keep combustible materials from wood and roofing materials to paint and cleaning solvents away from hot work areas. In an article published in NFPA Journal in 2017, former NFPA engineer Guy Colonna discussed some of the common hot work misconceptions he had encountered having led about 40 trainings at the time. One was that the hazard goes away once hot work operations stop.

“The truth [is] NFPA 51B and other hot work safety practices require someone—normally a trained fire watch—to remain at the work site for a minimum of 30 minutes after hot work has stopped to monitor the site for any smoldering conditions or reignition from hot embers or retained heat,” Colonna wrote. “And heat has a way of sticking around. Insurance data indicates that retained heat has contributed to reignition conditions up to four hours after the hot work was performed.”

A one-hour presentation on hot work safety is slated for “The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety” event on June 22, part of NFPA’s 125th Anniversary Conference Series. Information on the event is available at, and more information about NFPA’s Hot Work Safety Certificate Program can be found at —Angelo Verzoni

Top photograph: Getty Images