State must act now to mandate retrofitting residential high rises with fire sprinklers

Dear Editor:
The Cliffside Park high rise apartment fire on February 27 which caused more than 40 residents to be evacuated, is exactly why the NJ Department of Community Affairs must approve regulations to retrofit old residential high rises with fire sprinklers. Firefighters reacted heroically and quickly to the blaze, but nevertheless it is the elderly, disabled, children and infants who fall victims to this type of fire. The five alarm eighth floor blaze on Anderson Ave. Occurred in the 26 story Greenhouse Condominiums, a concrete building that fire officials said acts like an oven due to the way it was built.
At least half of the state’s high rises are unprotected from fire sprinklers, and most of those are residential. We pray that it will not take a tragedy of a much greater scale to convince the state to revisit the issue of retrofitting residential high rises.
In September, the Department of Community Affairs allowed the proposed high rise fire sprinkler retrofit regulations to expire. These regulations would have addressed an important life-safety issue and protected New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations and the fire service professionals who risk their lives to serve them from the dangers of fire.
Our hope is that the state will continue exploring opportunities to address this important public safety issue and will continue making fire protection a priority for high rise building residents, fire professionals and first responders.

David Kurasz, Executive Director
NJ Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board

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