N.J. Lawmakers Seek To Beef Up Fire Safety Codes After Devastating Edgewater Blaze

EDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Lawmakers in New Jersey are working to beef-up fire safety codes to prevent infernos like the one in Edgewater two years ago.

The fire moved fiercely through an entire apartment complex on Jan. 21, 2015, and the enormous flames lit up the night sky along the Hudson River.

The blaze burned for two days and left more than 500 residents and 200 neighbors temporarily displaced – though everyone survived.

Two years later, as CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the shell of the Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex remains as a reminder. And concern shave grown over how quickly the flames spread through the lightweight construction materials widely used throughout New Jersey.

“Even though the apartment complex was equipped with sprinklers, the place literally burned to the ground,” said Edgewater Mayor Joseph McPartland.

New Jersey legislators were taking action Friday, announcing a plan for new fire safety measures at multi-unit residential buildings.

Jim Tedesco, the Bergen County executive and Paramus fire chief, worked with the state’s fire safety commission on the upgraded fire codes.

“Requiring sprinklers not only in residential areas, but also in combustible void spaces, closets, bathrooms, and attics,” Tedesco said.

After a February fire at a luxury apartment complex construction site in Maplewood, CBS2’s Baker spoke to fire code expert Glenn Corbett, who explained how the engineered lightweight wood fuels the fire. He said it has become the standard material to use, but that is a problem, as developers build larger and larger – leaving open basements and attics for fires to spread.

It is called truss construction.

“Hidden areas where fire can spread throughout entire building,” said Corbett, associate professor of fire science at the Fire Code Advisory Council for New Jersey.

The new fire code not only adds sprinklers to vaulted areas, but mandates concrete fire walls between each attached building.

And during construction, fire safety guards will have to be on duty when work crews are not there.

“We also want to make sure that affordable housing in the state of New Jersey is still built, because there is a need for construction in this state – in lightweight construction; as we are in the 21st century, something that’s here,” Tedesco said. “But how do we make it better?”

State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said he hopes the changes to the construction codes will save lives of residents, first responders, pets, and other neighboring homes.

The bill will be introduced after the assembly break in May.


One Comment

  1. Alexi Assmus says:

    The Prieto bill would not require masonry firewalls in all structures covered by this bill. The bill would not require masonry firewalls in the structures covered by the enhanced sprinkler systems in concealed combustible spaces. The bill would only require masonry firewalls in buildings that are covered only by NFPA 13R construction, not the enhanced NFPA 13 fire suppression, AND between attached buildings that have a larger footprint than 10,000sf. Here is the language of Prieto’s A 96:

    “c. A building, all or a portion of which is of Type V construction, and equipped with an automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with NFPA 13R, which results in the omission of sprinklers from concealed combustible spaces where sprinklers are required under NFPA 13:

    (1) shall not exceed two stories measured from the grade plane; and
    (2) shall not exceed a per-story floor area of 10,000 square feet, except as provided in subsection d. of this section.

    d. Square footage beyond that authorized under subsection c. of this section may be permitted by constructing a minimum two-hour 40 masonry or concrete fire wall between each attached building.”

    Alexi Assmus, PhD

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