Windy conditions put fire inspectors on high alert at gem shows

Windy conditions put fire inspectors on high alert at gem shows
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's gem show season in the Old Pueblo.

"It's fascinating," said Pat Young, who stumbled upon the show near Kino and I-10.

That means thousands of people are walking in and out of tents like Joseph Brooks, who sells gems and minerals designed for jewelry.

"Necklaces, bracelets, rings and so on," he said.

And while visitors eyes are on the gems, fire inspectors keep their eyes on the tents, making sure event goers are safe. It's a process that starts long before the showcase even arrives in town.

"Once the gem show starts and the tents are up, people are in them. We're here daily making sure that the requirements are met," said Captain Nicholas Janton, with the Tucson Fire Department.

Janton leads a team of inspectors who check the tents before the show and during the show to make sure vendors are following the safety requirements.

They check for things like accessible fire extinguishers, illuminated exit signs, and clear pathways in case people have to escape.

"We get this many people inside of the tent like this and something happens they've got to be able to get out and get out in a safe manner," Janton explained.

They also make sure the tents are stable and properly secured to the ground, something even more important on windy days like Monday.

"They're required to be anchored and they're supposed to meet specific requirements for anchorage of those tents, whether it's using 55-gallon drums full of water or anchoring them into the ground. They're required to be anchor and we check them regularly - especially on a day like today," he explained.

Brooks said aside from anchoring, he makes sure the dust doesn't cloud out his merchandise.

"Normally we have the right side of the tent open but we closed that to make sure the dust doesn't get in, because a lot of the stuff gets dusty and that doesn't help sell it," he said.

He said safety is his number one priority followed by wowing people like Young with his mineral and gems.

"This is a really fantastic show. I love the fossils and the big geodes. That's what I've enjoyed the most," Young said.

Once the shows end, work for the fire department doesn't. They work alongside promoters and vendors to do a debrief meeting and make sure next year's show runs smoothly as well.

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