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Raleigh Mayor Calls for Study of Fire Codes

Posted February 27, 2007

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— Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker is calling for an investigation of a recent fire that destroyed several townhouses. He wants to know if building codes need to change as a result of the fire.

In a memo to City Manager Russell Allen, Meeker said he wants to ask the City Council to submit at aerial footage of the fire to a safety group and have the group examine several aspects of the Pine Knoll Townes fire, including whether more fire-resistant building materials should be required.

“If there are things that need to be changed, it's time the city make those changes,” Meeker said.

While the city said the townhouses were code compliant, Meeker is calling on the safety group to study current fire codes. Meeker said he wonders if a more durable material like brick could have slowed the fire.

Officials said townhouses make up one-third of all new homes in Raleigh. Because they are now so common, Raleigh Assistant Fire Chief Larry Stanford recommends changes. Most would need approval by the North Carolina Building Code Council.

Stanford said solid wood floor joints and extending more durable fire walls through the attic may prevent fire from spreading even if it starts outside.

“There's nothing to prevent the fire from going directly across to the next unit and on and on,” Stanford said.

Some homebuilders are cautioning the city not make emotional decisions. They worry materials like brick could make homes out of reach for first-time home buyers.

“All of a sudden, if we start requiring literally cinder-block townhomes, it's going to be impossible for anyone to purchase one of those,” said Tim Minton, Executive Director of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh/Wake County.

Right now, Raleigh does have some requirements in addition to the state codes for cluster homes.

If a fire hose can not reach around an entire building, the developers must provide sprinklers, more fire hydrants or an access road. Although officials said it would not have helped in this fire, Stanford said all cluster communities should have sprinklers in every unit.
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