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No Smoke Detectors or Sprinklers in Apartment's Hallways - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

No Smoke Detectors or Sprinklers in Apartment's Hallways

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Investigators are having a tough time finding a cause for Tuesday's apartment fire at 4219 10th Avenue South in Fargo that left eight families homeless.

We do know that no smoke detectors were going off in the building when fire crews arrive. That is because there were none in the hallways where smoke was. Smoke detectors were not even required to be there.

That concerned firefighters when they arrived on scene. Battalion Chief Bruce Anderson says, "On the third floor, in that fire floor, there were still three people in that area and our crews evacuated them."

But what worries Anderson even more is the fact that it could have been worse. "It was very fortunate that it happened at that time of the day, cause we could've had a different turnout in the middle of the night," he says.

This particular apartment was built around 1984. The Fire Marshal Norm Scott says, "At that time if an apartment building was three or more stories in height and had 16 or more apartment units in the building, then it would require a fire alarm system."

The apartment building is only two stories and has 12 units, so it has no sprinklers or alert systems in the hallways. "In today's code," Scott says, "Any apartment building with three or more units will be sprinklered."

Though the buildings built before the requirements were changed do not have to meet today's code as long as they continue to meet their original codes.

City of Fargo Inspections Administrator Ron Strand says, "I think anyone can see that's not only not practical, there's a fairness issue."

Strand adds the building's systems are not necessarily able to handle today's technology and the codes in general set minimum requirements.

He says it is not a matter of putting a cost on people's safety. "There's nothing in these codes that should be judged as being not oriented towards safety."

Rather it is about building with the best available knowledge at a given time. "It's so easy to look back and say hindsight is perfect. Well sure it is, but they're minimums," says Strand.

As far as how many apartment buildings do not have sprinklers or alert systems, the inspections department does not have a tally.

But, the rule used for mandating sprinkler systems in apartments right now went into effect in 2001.

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