Cold prompts closure
Cold weather issues shut down Superior’s Dollar General store for 1½ days last week. The closure resulted from concrete heaving, which prevented the back door from opening.
Battalion Chief Scott Gordon with the Superior Fire Department said the door could only open about 2 inches, enough space to stick your fingers through. The only other entrance to the building is the automatic front door. If the power had gone out, said Gordon, no one would have been able to exit the store.
“We can’t have a building that doesn’t have a second exit, and certainly not if that first exit is battery-operated,” Gordon said.
Dollar General was great to work with, Gordon said, and the store was quick to address the problem. By 3:30 p.m. Friday, a fire inspector gave the store at 216 Belknap St. the go-ahead to reopen.
Jill van Alsten with Pfefferlee Management Company, which manages the Dollar General stores in Wisconsin, said this is the only store where they’ve had a slab heave this winter. It’s something that could happen to any business, she said, with this year’s weather.
Superior firefighters found that out first hand. They had to address a similar problem with the fire hall’s back door three weeks ago.
“Our door started hitting the slab,” Gordon said. “We went out with a jackhammer and broke the concrete.”
The problem at Dollar General was brought to the fire department’s attention by the city building inspection office Thursday morning. Friday, two laborers from Concrete Sawing Services of Superior were attacking concrete at both the front and back doors. The front doors slide back, but according to Gordon they must also be able to open forward, or kick out, in case of an emergency. While Eric DeGraef shaved off about 1 inch of concrete to free the back door, Kent Hathaway used a slab saw and jackhammer to take 2 inches off the concrete in front of the main door.
The incident can serve as a prompt for other business owners.
“You know this isn’t the only business with a blocked exit,” Gordon said.
Along with heaving concrete, accumulated snow can also block exits. The battalion chief encouraged business owners to check all exit doors to make sure they open fully. They also need to ensure there is at least a 3-foot-wide path leading from business doors to the nearest sidewalk or street, not just a narrow trail.
Fire codes require businesses to have a specific number of working exits based on the square footage and occupancy of the building or site.
For more information, owners can contact the fire department at 715-394-0227.