Officials and residents call for stricter construction regulations after Edgewater fire

TRENTON – A diverse group of firefighters, labor leaders, and residents told the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee that New Jersey needs better construction code regulations to prevent developers from using cheap materials that burn quicker and fail faster. Their testimony came as lawmakers considered a fire safety bill that requires new apartment buildings to have fire barriers and fire stops, features that might have prevented the Avalon at Edgewater fire from spreading so quickly.
The devastating fire at the AvalonBay apartment complex in Edgewater, on Jan. 21 has generated widespread concerns about the dangers of lightweight construction used in Edgewater and other AvalonBay developments¬.
AvalonBay has 6,000 existing units in New Jersey and 1,000 currently under construction. Among the properties owned by AvalonBay are the Avalon North Bergen apartments at 5665 Kennedy Boulevard. The North Bergen property has more sprinklers than the Edgewater complex and a flat roof, making it “somewhat safer,” according to Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
Eddie Donnelly, president of the NJ Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association said firefighters have been sounding the alarm about lightweight construction for years. “When fire strikes, minutes and even seconds can make the difference between life and death,” said Donnelly. “Studies have shown that lightweight structures burn faster and lose their structural integrity quicker than traditional lumber. Lawmakers need to take action to ensure developers stop using these materials because they could put the public and firefighters at risk.”

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