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Debate Over N.C. Fire Code Causes Confusing Christmas For Some

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RALEIGH, N.C. — One section of the North Carolina Fire Code went out to apartment complexes all over Wake County.

The code deals with Christmas trees. Apartment managers, and even some fire marshals, read the code and determined that Christmas trees are not allowed in apartments.

Guess how people in apartments are reacting?

"I don't think there's a problem," apartment resident Laura Gratkowski said. "I think it's ridiculous."

Laura and her husband, Marc, have their Santa Clauses and Christmas boxes but not a Christmas tree. They have an apartment in Cary, and the apartment complex posted the North Carolina Fire Code.

"The strict reading of the fire code says you cannot have live, natural-cut Christmas trees in apartment buildings," said Wake County Fire Marshal Ray Echevarria.

Local Christmas tree seller Darrell Worley said he does not think much of that ordinance.

"I think you've got a bunch of Scrooges that made it," Worley said.

There is confusion over the fire code. Although Echevarria said Christmas trees are not allowed in apartments that do not have sprinkler systems, the Cary fire marshal said they are allowed.

"There are many areas of the code where different jurisdictions read the code, and they interpret it to mean something different," Echevarria said.

Said Laura Gratkowski: "We talked to two people in the fire marshal's office, and one said yes, and one said no, so we're at a loss. We don't know what to do."

"I think it's ridiculous," Marc said. "What are they going to do next? Are they going to come and take our birthday candles away from us because the candles present a hazard?"

So, what is the story? Can you have a Christmas tree in your Wake County apartment?

According to the Department of Insurance, which oversees the fire code, people can have Christmas trees in their apartments, and it makes no difference whether the apartment has a sprinkler system or not.

But that does not explain why some fire marshals are interpreting the code differently.

Whatever the explanation, there is only a week left to figure it out.

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