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Merchants, Fire Department At Odds Over Iron Bars

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FAYETTEVILLE — There is a battle over iron bars going on in Fayetteville -- the kind many business owners install on their doors. The owners say bars prevent crime while firefighters say the bars can kill.

Craig Stewart's pharmacy became so popular with thieves that he installed a security system and an iron gate on his back exit. It seemed to keep burglars out. However, Fayetteville fire inspectors told him in September to take it down.

"This has caused me a lot of expense, worry and anxiety about the protection of my property," Stewart says.

By law, burglar bars are fine on windows. Iron gates are allowed on front entrances if they are locked open during business hours, but iron doors are not allowed on back exits.

"It's a lifesaving issue. These devices can prevent people from exiting during a fire or any emergency," says deputy fire marshal Chris Morey.

The law has been on the books since 1991, but Morey says the city had interpreted it to say that, like front doors, back doors could be secured open. Inspectors started to crack down after realizing the state's interpretation was nothing should be blocking the exits, including iron gates.

Removing the iron bars does not cut it for 69-year-old barber Thomas Hopper. His back door has been secured for seven years.

"Rather than take them down when I'm open, I prefer just pushing the gate back when I open the front door," Hooper says.

If businesses are cited during their inspections and do not comply with removing the iron gates in the back, they can be fined $1,000 a day. The fire department understands security is an issue, and they are offering advice to owners on alternatives.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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