February 25, 2015

Council Reviews Comments to DCA About Fire Safety

At its meeting Tuesday night, Princeton Council went over a list of suggestions to be sent to the Department of Community Affairs about improving state building and fire codes. A disastrous fire at the Edgewater apartment complex in Bergen County prompted the DCA to ask municipalities throughout New Jersey for comments.

Edgewater is owned by AvalonBay, the developer of a 280-unit apartment complex to be built on the Witherspoon Street site of the former Princeton Hospital. AvalonBay has voluntarily agreed to add fire safety measures to the construction of the complex, including more sprinklers and masonry fire walls. While AvalonBay says the complex was up to code, officials have blamed its lightweight wood construction for the quick spread of the blaze, which left some 500 people homeless.

New Jersey’s fire code has been under scrutiny since the blaze, and local officials are among those who have called for making the rules more rigorous. In response to the DCA request, a Princeton group was organized including Mayor Liz Lempert, Council members Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler, and staff members. Their comments are due at DCA by March 1.

Their suggestions include requirements for developers to install sprinklers in attics, closets, ceilings, floors, and all finished spaces. Masonry firewalls would be installed from foundations to roofs, and in elevator shafts and stairwells of multi-family housing or businesses. Permits would be required for inspectors to make sure firewalls are properly maintained.