NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are fresh questions about lightweight wood construction for large apartment complexes following a six-alarm fire in Maplewood over the weekend.
Crews from 24 different fire companies worked for several hours to extinguish a blaze that destroyed part of an AvalonBay apartment complex under construction at 200 Boyden Avenue.
The apartments were nearing completion with residents scheduled to move into 30 of the units in six weeks.
Two years ago after a fire devoured another AvalonBay complex in Edgewater leaving hundreds homeless, some lawmakers called for revised building codes, but nothing has changed, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
Fire safety advocates argue lightweight wood construction should not be used for high-density structures over three stories, The Record reported. The apartments in Maplewood appear to be four stories.
“I don’t know if they have to be banned, but we certainly want to reduce the size of these buildings and upgrade the level of protection,” Glenn Corbett, Fire Code Advisory Council for New Jersey said.
Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca believes AvalonBay has made safety a top priority.
“After the Edgewater fire we met with them and we got an upgrade to the building, there are concrete block firestops that are all the way up from the floor to the roofline,” DeLuca said.
Change would start with stricter building codes.
After the Edgewater fire, New Jersey legislators proposed a bill that would put a freeze on permits for new multi family homes that used lightweight wood, but failed.
“These materials meet standards in state,” mayor DeLuca said.
Prosecutors have been investigating the cause of the fire.
“They will be interviewing the two staff people on duty that night, looking at various systems had in place, but no answer has been provided yet,” DeLuca said.
Avalon Bay said four heaters were in operation to keep the spaces that were being dry-walled from freezing.
It had onsite fire watch, and security personnel overnight.
The portion of the complex that burned was under construction and did not yet have fire walls or sprinklers.
The New Jersey State Assembly said the bill failed because a freeze was not viable. They are working on legislation that would require more sprinkler systems.
AvalonBay released a statement saying, “We are working closely with local authorities to determine the cause of the fire, as well as the potential impacts on the development.”