Sunday, May 29, 2016

Requiring A Life Saver

Rolling Green fatal fire 1/21/13 (photo by Stephanie Jernigan)

Sprinklers are a firefighter's best friend, an automated system on duty every minute of the day or night, making a monumental difference by catching a fire before it voraciously feeds and transforms to killer beast.

 Southpoint Apartments four alarm fire 8/9/14

Amherst Town Meeting just approved $390K in Community Preservation Act money to assist the Amherst College owned Evergreens Museum and First Congregational Church next door with installing protective fire suppression sprinkler system in their historic structures.

Since 219 Amity was constructed a long time ago they do not have a sprinkler system even though they are currently commercial housing and were "grandfathered" so town officials could not just suddenly require them.

 219 Amity Street near town center

But after the fire on Friday night, new codes will now kick in 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).

And it only takes one "no" to avoid sprinklers.

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.

After the fatal fire at Rolling Green Apartments, where a sprinkler system could have been a life saver, and the major fire at Southpoint Apartments 1.5 years later, which fortunately did not cause casualties, Chief Nelson required sprinklers in the newly rebuilt/renovated structures.

At the time he told me, "As a general statement, with few exceptions, we always lean toward sprinkler use in occupancies."

If the 219 Amity Street fire happened when UMass was in session that rental property would have been far more densely populated. 

Obviously the saving of just one life justifies the cost of a new commercial sprinkler system.

Every time.   

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