Council candidates contemplate sprinklers for old buildings

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—In the wake of a devastating six-alarm fire Oct. 17 at an apartment building here, City Council candidates are thinking of ways to encourage owners of older buildings to retrofit the structures with fire sprinklers.

Another Redwood City apartment complex burned in July, the San Mateo Daily Journal reported. Both buildings were built before the fire code required sprinklers.

Candidates suggested seeking a federal grant or other source of money to help offset the cost of renovating buildings; the city’s fire code disallows retroactive mandates, so city officials can only encourage owners to make updates, the paper reported.

One candidate suggested a survey to determine how many buildings need sprinklers installed. That would allow the city to evaluate whether it could afford to help offset the costs, which candidates said would be substantial and likely to be passed on to tenants.

City Councilman John Seybert, who has experience as an alarm system designer and sprinkler contractor, said the building’s alarm system did its job during last week’s fire—it gave residents warning in time to get out.