1. #1
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    Sep 2002

    Default Los Angeles--Gap in Regulations Leaves Buildings Without Sprinkler Protection

    See attached story--What do other cities require for high rise buildings? In Ontario, office buildings have to be sprinklered, but in residential buildings only the below grade areas and garbage chutes have to be sprinklered.

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A resident was critically burned in a fire on the sixth floor of a residential high-rise in Koreatown.
    The fire broke out at about 10:20 a.m. Monday in a Wilshire Tower apartment and about 80 firefighters were sent to the Seventh Street complex. It took about 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which was confined to a single apartment, Capt. Rex Vilaubi said.

    Two women in the blackened apartment were injured. One had third-degree burns and respiratory complications, the other was sent to another hospital with minor injuries, Vilaubi said. Their names were withheld.

    The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known.

    The blaze exposed what authorities called a gap in city regulations that allows more than 100 high-rise buildings without sprinkler systems. Apartment buildings and office towers constructed before 1943 and after 1974 must have fire sprinklers installed.

    Fire officials said those rules leave about 75 percent of residential high-rises without sprinklers.

    "As a firefighter, it is a huge concern," said Capt. Frank Comfort, a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department's High-Rise unit. "Everybody knows sprinklers save lives. When you don't have them, what are you saying?"

    In the early 1990s, the Fire Department pushed for regulations that would require all high-rises to have sprinklers, but the proposal ultimately failed.

    "There is an extremely strong lobby of residential owners," said Comfort, who was an inspector at the time and recalls the debate vividly. "The sad thing is, we've already had far more deaths in high-rise residential buildings than at office buildings."

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    SafetyPro's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Santa Cruz, CA


    The real issue is, do you go back and require building owners to install sprinklers in existing buildings? L.A. does require all NEW high-rise buildings to be sprinklered, but didn't mandate sprinklers being installed in existing buildings (with a few exceptions). Most of the sprinkler regulations I've seen (be they high-rise, residential, whatever) only require them to be installed for new construction or during significant renovation.

    Our town (which is primarly residential with some light retail/commercial) requires residential sprinkler systems for all new construction, renovation of 75% or more of the structure or new construction totalling 50% or more of the original structure. Not sure what the commercial requirements are, but I'm pretty sure its all new construction and any renovation.
    Chris Gaylord
    Emergency Planner / Fire Captain, UC Santa Cruz FD

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    May 1999
    Here, There, Everywhere


    I find it odd that so many guys will get bent out of shape over some perceived loop-hole in the laws...yet there is no mention of proper staffing and training to deal with the fires in the mean time. Why don't these guys bring up issues of staffing at these fires instead of sprinklers which obviously isn't a hot issue that would result in retro-fit ordnances?


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