Fiery Float Spurs New Rose Parade Safety Measures

Published : Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | 5:05 AM

At top, the Chinese American Heritage Foundation’s “Harmony Through Union” float is obscured by smoke from a small fire as it stops near the intersection of Orange Grove Blvd. and Green Street during the 2019 Rose Parade; at bottom, a large tow truck begins its attempt to remove the disabled float, as following parade entries can be seen backing up behind the blockage. Photographs by Bill Glazier courtesy of the

Recent improvements to Rose Parade floats announced by the Tournament of Roses confirmed the old adage that where the smoke there’s fire. It also demonstrated that where there is a chance of fire, there’ll be some safety measures.

Fire suppression measures and fire barriers protecting driver compartment will be new features in all 2020 Rose Parade floats.

Tournament of Roses Executive Director David Eads told The Mercury News that the fire suppression devices that they will require on the 2020 floats will be similar to those in passenger buses that disperse fire retardant powder in case engines overheat.

The fire barriers around driver compartments will also give enough time for float drivers to evacuate safely in case of a fire, Eads said.

It’s all fallout from the blaze on the Chinese American Heritage Foundation (CAHF) float that led to nothing worse than disruption of the parade’s progress and no harm to humans.

The fire on the CAHF float was caused by an accidental discharge of transmission fluid onto the float’s hot exhaust pipe, which ignited into flames that spread from the engine area to the driver’s compartment, according to a statement by a Tournament of Roses spokesperson.

The report said the Tournament of Roses Association, which manages preparations for the annual New Year spectacle in Pasadena, has completed its investigation on the cause of the fire and has released new safety guidelines for float makers.

The CAHF’s 2019 float, “Harmony Through Union,” depicted the story of how thousands of Chinese workers helped finish the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad and celebrated immigrant worker contributions to the U.S economy.

It began to show signs of fire as it turned the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards. The float was evacuated and firefighters put out the fire.

Four floats: Wells Fargo Stagecoach; the Royal Swedish Cadet Band; South Pasadena’s “Three Little Birds” float and Underground Service Alert of Southern California’s “Backyard Harmony” float, continued through the parade, finishing 20 minutes behind schedule.

The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses (SPTOR) said it was being compensated for not properly finishing the parade because of the fire. South Pasadena will also not need to pay the $2,500 entry fee for the 2020 parade, according to the Pasadena-based Tournament of Roses Association.

Last month, SPTOR President Courtney Dunlap said their group will receive $4,000 to defray the cost of building their 2019 float, plus $1,000 for the music rights to Bob Marley’s reggae classic, “Three Little Birds,” around which the entry was themed.

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