Friday, August 15, 2014

To Sprinkle Or Not To Sprinkle?

Engine 2 (the quint) on scene Southpoint fire 5:15ish

Unlike the tragic Rolling Green fire (1/21/13) that took the life of Jake Hoffman, a 21-year-old UMass senior, the rebuilding of Southpoint Apartments is a tad more complicated when it comes to the sprinkler system requirement.

 Rolling Green fatal fire (photo by Stephanie Jernigan

Since Southpoint was originally built way back in 1968 they are "grandfathered," but new codes will now come to bear with the relevant three being: "Would otherwise require sprinklers" (Yes); "Sufficient water pressure available in the area" (Yes); and "Work area exceeds 50% of the building" (No).

 Connecting walls are not considered "true fire walls"

And it takes only one "No" to nix the requirement for lifesaving sprinklers.

Southpoint designates the four contiguous structures as separate buildings:  Building #99, #97, #95 and #93 -- but the walls they share are not considered "true fire walls," therefore all four buildings are considered just one really BIG building.

Fire started in kitchen (pot left on stove)

Thus the work on #97 where the fire started, even though it's the entirety of the building, is only 25% of the total square footage.

 A jigsaw of four buildings, but considered one

State law, however, gives extraordinary authority to a fire chief, so Chief Nelson can simply order them to install sprinklers as part of the renovation, as he did with Rolling Green Apartments (and they were self insured so it cost them a few bucks).

According to Chief Nelson, "Before we decide we'll have to see what the owners plan to do with the damaged property.  As a general statement, with few exceptions, we always lean toward sprinkler use in occupancies."

Southpoint building #97 5:35 PM

Interestingly the building owners could appeal that to the state (who usually sides with a Chief), but the State Fire Marshal does not even have to convene a hearing for such an appeal. 

Considering how understaffed AFD is, every bit of built-in fire protection installed in occupied major structures is a plus.  And sprinklers are a HUGE plus.

Making the nightly news


Walter Graff said...

In this day and age to have a grandfather clause on a life saving sprinkler system is beyond belief. You pay for one of two ways, no system and don't have to spend the money and you have much more damage caused by fire in the end. With a system you pay upfront but have less damage on the back end. Considering the transient nature of Amherst, sprinklers should be mandatory everywhere.

Dr. Ed said...

If it has four street addresses, that's enough in my book to declare it four separate buildings. They want to make an issue of it -- fine, add a fire rated wall as well.

Anonymous said...

This is easily solved without the requirement of installing sprinklers because adults are the one's renting the appartments, or at least making the decision for their family. Simply require NOTIFICATION as to whether their are sprinklers or not. Then the adults can decide if they were not smart enough to look on their own. This can work with building inspections, food inspections, etc. Simply tell people if they have voluntarily complied and then consumers can take the risk they are taking anyway.

Soon, sprinklers will be required in all homes and they will be less affordable, like the future apartments with them. I was going to dig in deep in the community and buy a building for my business in stead of renting. Found a great building only 4 doors down, came to terms with the owner $750k deal....squashed with the local inspector added $150k worth of upgrades such as sprinklers. We are still in our old location, grandfathered, with all the safety risks along with the fact that we did not expand, we did not make more jobs locally all because we could not justify another $150k on feel good safety measures we currently do not have. We simply expanded our operations out of state, where such issues are not as intense. I know the communities we expanded into really appreciate the jobs we made, my guess is that the families that are no longer suffering would not trade the new found 3 meals a day for sprinkler requirements.

It is amazing how caring about people you don't know locally in Amherst translated to really not giving a crap how their lives go.

I say if someone steps up and requires something like this, they sure as heck better have it in their own home. But we need to remember, this is the rich people looking out for the stupid poor people (just don't describe it like that or we cannot continue to pretend to be the faux elite)

No one is required to live anywhere unless convicted. Everyone has the right to live with or without sprinklers without the housing police enforcing a thing.

Anonymous said...

If someone claims to be a Dr., that is enough in my book to make them have a sprinkler system on their back....4 addresses or just a flannel shirt. One sprinkler head required for each proclamation.

yokal said...

The cool part is now the people burned out of their homes will be assured to have sprinklers for all the time everyone debates if they should be required to have them in the apartment.

This is because every couple-few days it will rain locally, and these folks are on the streets, sure to get sprinkled in this predicament.

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue is ADA compliance -- I *think* that would mean an elevator -- is that the real issue here?