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Strict Sprinkler Rules Proposed for Buildings

May 22, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Reacting to a sharp increase in fire damage in Glendale this year, city officials Tuesday took the first step toward requiring automatic sprinklers in many more buildings.

City Council voted unanimously to have the city Building Commission hold public hearings on rules that would require sprinklers in every room and hallway of new buildings, and in all existing structures of at least four stories. The ordinance would not govern one- and two-family homes.

"I think the whole city has a lot to lose if we don't enact this," said Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg.

The ordinance now in force, passed in 1976, requires sprinklers only in very large buildings and contains many loopholes, officials say. For example, the law exempts all condominiums regardless of size.

Fire Damage Doubles

Fire Chief John Montenero told the council that fires in Glendale caused an estimated $6 million in damage in the last 10 months, about double that in similar periods of previous years. Those fires caused two deaths and injured 22 residents and 18 firefighters. Montenero said that, if all the burned buildings had been equipped with sprinklers, damage might have been cut by 80% and that the deaths and many of the injuries might have been avoided.

"If we are going to solve this, we've got to start now," the chief warned.

In a memo to the council, City Manager James Rez said: "There will undoubtedly be some resistance to this ordinance" from the construction industry. He recommended that the council postpone final action until builders and landlords present their views at public hearings. With some members expressing concern about the potential cost of the sprinklers, the council took Rez's advice.

Montenero estimated that it could cost about $1,500 to install sprinklers in a private home and more than $100,000 in a large apartment or office building.

Would Govern New Buildings

Under the proposal, all new buildings would need sprinklers in order to obtain occupancy permits. Existing apartment buildings of four stories or more would have four years to install sprinklers, and commercial buildings of such heights would have five years to meet the requirements. In addition, any commercial or apartment building of at least three units would need sprinklers if they are expanded by more than 1,000 square feet or if the cost of renovation is more than 25% of its original value.

Montenero said after the meeting that he plans to push for even tougher rules that would eliminate the exemption for one- and two-family homes.

According to Rez, the city plans to install automatic sprinklers next year in the Central Library. The project had been in the works before the devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library, he said. The Los Angeles fire reinforced his opinion that Glendale's library must have the watering system, Rez said.

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