Government Maplewood Police and Fire South Orange Towns

NJ Fire Officials Call for Stricter Codes on Wood-Frame Mid-Rise Construction

A group of New Jersey fire officials held a press conference earlier this month calling for stricter fire codes for multifamily wood-frame mid-rise construction — in light of the massive fire that destroyed an apartment building in Edgewater in January.

According to NorthJersey.com (the online presence of The Record of Bergen County), several firefighters associations are “calling for changes to the state Uniform Construction Code to limit wood-frame construction to three floors and 20,000 square feet per floor, and to require more sprinklers, including in attic spaces, and masonry fire walls between buildings.”

The press conference last week — held at the site of the Edgewater fire — included representatives of the Bergen County Fire Chiefs Association, the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association, the New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs Association, the Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association, the New Jersey Fire Prevention and Protection Association, and the Edgewater Fire Department.

Maplewood and South Orange are seeing this type of construction with new apartment buildings like the 3rd and Valley project in South Orange and the Avalon Bay project at the former PSE&G site in Maplewood.

Both projects will meet state standards for fire safety, and Avalon Bay — the owner and manager of the Edgewater complex that burned down in January — has promised additional fire safety precautions for the Maplewood project that go above and beyond code.

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca addressed concerns about fire safety for the Avalon Bay/PSE&G site project back in February, stating, “With any multi-family dwelling under consideration in Maplewood, including the post office site, PSE&G site and Maplewood Commons, we all have discussions with the developers about fire safety. We intend to monitor any regulatory changes to state fire codes and add our input. Lastly, our Code Enforcement Committee will discuss fire and building safety issues and propose any local or state changes we think make sense.”

The Village Green is reaching out to South Orange officials to discuss fire safety and multifamily mid-rise developments.

Meanwhile, New Jersey fire officials and others are asking that those surplus standards being employed at Avalon Bay’s Maplewood project be codified as law.

In an article on NJTVonline.com, Glenn Corbett of the Bergen County Fire Chiefs Association outlined the requested changes to the state code, including additional sprinklers and fire breaks, that are currently under review by the governor’s office.

Corbett noted in an interview with Bill Ritter on Channel 7 this morning that multistory wood-frame construction has been disallowed in New York since the 1830s.

The NorthJersey.com article, published on August 23, 2015, also outlined three pieces of legislation that have been introduced in Trenton — and a potential fourth bill that may be introduced next month — dealing with safety issues involving light frame construction. One calls for a two-year moratorium on such construction while it is studied, another seeks to require concrete or steel structural frames in buildings over three stories while requiring more fire-resistant materials, and another seeks to ban multifamily light frame construction in municipalities with a population density greater than 5,000 people per square mile.

Read the NorthJersey.com article here.

Read the NJTVonline.com article here.

Read more coverage on the topic on NJ.com here.

See Corbett interviewed on ABC 7 New York here.

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