Chad Chadderton just isn’t one of Ahwatukee’s early settlers.
As broker and owner of Ahwatukee Realty and Property Management, he helped the community grow almost from the time he bought his first house in Ahwatukee in 1977 for $36,800.
But while he still remains active in real estate, Chadderton also served Greater Phoenix as the only Realtor on the city Fire Safety Advisory Board.
Now, at 65, he has retired from the panel.
The advisory board may not exactly be at the forefront of newscasts and stories, but it has played an important role in extending fire safety for homes and businesses in the city throughout Chadderton’s 30 years on the panel.
It not only hears appeals from Fire Marshall’s decisions and submits findings to city council, but also makes recommendations for updates to the Fire Code as well as any ordinances or other regulations “on matters pertaining to hazards of fire, explosions, hazardous conditions or fire protection systems,” according to the city’s official description of the panel.
It also draws on some of the best minds in the industry as volunteers – including a fire protection systems contractor, architect, developer, petroleum and liquefied petroleum gas industry representatives, property insurance agent, health care worker, fire protection engineer, small business owner, construction contractor, a special events coordinator and an ordinary city resident.
Meeting once a month, the board advises city officials and the Fire Department on critical updates to the city fire and building codes – updates that sometimes appear necessary when a tragedy strikes or new technology presents firefighters with problems they had never faced before.
As the son of a Brooklyn, New York, police officer, Chadderton was no stranger to public safety issues and challenges when then Deputy Fire Chief Bobby Ruiz nominated him in 1991 to fill the Realtor’s chair on the board. He wanted Chadderton to take the test for a firefighter position. He declined, though then Mayor Paul Johnson readily accepted Ruiz’s nomination of Chadderton to the advisory board.
Chadderton said that as a board member, “I’ve learned a lot of stuff and I was able to give input as a Realtor and a property manager.”
He is particularly proud of his work on the board in developing several projects, such as pool fence requirements.
“In 1991 drowning was the leading cause of death in Arizona for children under 4 years old and totaled 88 that year,” he said. “The new code to have either a cover, fence or self-closing doors reduced drownings by almost half the following year.”
Even after that requirement was implemented, emergency personnel seemed to be hearing the same story after a tragedy. Too many times when there was a drowning or near-drowning even when the pool was fenced, “Typically, whoever was supervising ran into the house to answer the phone,” Chadderton said.
The board then implemented the “Just a Few Seconds” campaign to create awareness and education. That campaign has had several iterations since then, including the “Two Seconds is Too Long” campaign that Fulton Homes CEO Doug Fulton and retired local weatherman Dave Munsey launched.
Chadderton also is proud of his involvement in the project that led to the city requirement in 1994 that homeowners must install 10-year, sealed-battery smoke alarms when replacing outdated, missing or damaged units.
“Over 3,000 people died annually in fires,” Chadderton said, “but so many times a smoke detector would start chirping and people would dismantle it. Or they needed a battery for a kids game and they’d take the battery out of a smoke detector and never replace kit. People are sometimes just dumb and they don’t realize that’s your first line of defense in a fire.”
“So that law protects people sometimes from themselves,” Chadderton said.
“It reduces liability to the landlord being 10 years.”
What’s more is that other Valley cities followed Phoenix’s example and implemented similar laws requiring sealed smoke detectors.”
“I think it saves lives,” Chadderton said. “Phoenix is one of the pioneers in the world as far as being ahead of the curve on a lot of fire safety issues. People come from all over the world to learn from Phoenix Fire Department and they’re kind of the forerunner on codes.”
Chadderton’s last big project involved lithium-ion batteries, used in everything from cell phones to solar systems, and a phenomenon called thermal runaway.
In simplest terms, thermal runaway begins when the heat generated within a battery exceeds the amount of heat that is dissipated to its surroundings.
Internal battery temperature can continue to rise, causing battery current to rise and create a domino effect that leads to a fire or explosion.
The board’s study began after an April 2019 incident in West Phoenix following an explosion in West Phoenix in April 2019 that started with a fire in an industrial lithium battery container.
”Several issues came out of that,” Chadderton said.
“People called in what they thought was a brush fire and when firefighters got there. they saw the smoke was covering an 800-square-foot storage building and it was full of lithium-ion batteries wired in series; it was storing electricity off the grid from Sun City,” Chadderton explained.
“So the facility did not call the Fire Department for at least an hour,” he continued, stating firefighters were checking for hotspots when one of them opened the door of the unit. Five minutes later, an explosion occurred that was so forceful one firefighter was blown back 75 feet.
“The door blew off the hinges and another fireman was knocked back 25 feet,” he said.
In addition, the fire released lethal cyanide gas, a byproduct of a lithium battery fire, and caused lung damage to a police officer and a firefighter.
The incident raised several concerns for Chadderton as he and the board studied it.
One was that no one called the Fire Department for an hour.
“I thought that was wrong,” Chadderton said.
Now, hose storage areas must contain warnings about the potential for cyanide gas leaks during a fire. The rule applies to both companies and homeowners with solar power have a lithium-ion battery storage units.
“And when the first responder gets there in the event of a fire call,” he added, “the first thing he does is kill the power to the solar unit.”
The board also persuaded city officials to enact a requirement that all such battery storage units be outside a home, garage or other structure.
Chadderton said he personally thought a problem is more likely to develop when people overcharge their lithium batteries, noting a similar fire phenomenon has been reported with laptops and some cell phones.
As engaged as he was in the fire advisory board, Chadderton said he’s reached a point in his life where he is cutting back on some of his volunteer activities to spend more time with his girlfriend of about nine months.
“I decided to kind of simplify things,” he said, noting he didn’t renew another term on the Lamb of God Lutheran Church’s council after serving six years and has been the Ahwatukee church’s property committee chairman for 25 years.
He is keeping his seat on the Maricopa Historical Society board, but he said his business also has been keeping him busy, though he draws a lot of satisfaction from his service on the fire advisory board – which also led him to conduct fire safety classes for people in his profession.
Now, he said, “I have met a wonderful woman and am very busy with work and enjoying life.”