The state is reacting with renewed measures for fire safety after a 24-unit apartment complex in Quincy caught fire in July, destroying much of the roof and structure and causing the building to be condemned.
According to reports, the fire started when a charcoal grill being used on a balcony of one of the Faxon Park Apartment Complex buildings ignited the wooden balcony and traveled into the attic.
State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan today released the findings of the investigation that occurred surrounding the fire, saying that he was concerned that so many units were lost in a building that had sprinklers.
“It is incumbent on local fire and building officials to take the lessons learned from this fire and prevent similar or worse fires in their own jurisdictions,” Coan said. “This is not the first fire we’ve had in this type of large apartment building and if this fire had happened in the middle of the night, we might not have been so fortunate to have no casualties.”
The investigation centered on the complex’s sister buildings and building plans, as much of the building that caught on fire was completely destroyed and thus beyond review.
According to the report, the building was not built to the approved state building codes and fire codes in several areas, including draft stopping – which protects large buildings from fire spread in open spaces, and the sprinkler systems.
As a result, state officials will seek more stringent measures for implementation of fire protection standards, and have encouraged local building and fire departments to review buildings in their area for violations.
Quincy officials have already begun this process, taking corrective action on the remaining buildings at Faxon Park. According to a release, the building owners have either completed the corrective work or it is under way.
The city has also ordered the building owners to hire a registered fire-protection engineer to ensure fire sprinkler systems are properly installed and maintained in the complex.
The state is still waiting to understand to what extent the building was in violation of building codes as it regards sprinklers, as the permit was issued during a transition of new rules and regulations.
Although the building had interior sprinklers, it did not have sprinklers in the attic or on the balconies.
However, the investigation did uncover that the building was definitely in violation of building codes as it concerns draft stopping and fire barriers.
“The draft stopping in the attic, designed to impede the spread of fire and smoke through the attic, was not constructed according to the approved plan and is also a violation of the building code,” a release said. “It was not continuous and access panels were left open. This allowed the fire and smoke to travel across the attic unimpeded.”
The building also lacked fire-rated barriers from the vinyl soffits on the balconies, which allowed the fire on the balcony to enter the void space unimpeded.
Regardless of what has occurred, Coan has persuaded the Board of Building Regulations in the most updated edition of the State’s Building Codes to require more sprinklers in buildings of this size, and include sprinklers on the balconies and in the attic.
Additionally, “this fire underscores the need to finalize that adoption and set [national] uniform standards for building owners on how to properly maintain these [water] systems,” a release on the investigation said.
Overall, it has helped to highlight the need for increased measures.
“While we have taken steps to ensure these types of buildings are better protected from fire in the future, we need to make sure those already built are as safe as possible,” Coan said.