Miniature sprinklers or automatic fire extinguishers in the kitchens of older apartments could greatly reduce a trend of dangerous blazes, according to Sandy Springs Fire Rescue Chief Keith Sanders.
Sander proposed an ordinance change to require such safety features in discussion at the Sandy Springs City Council retreat Jan. 26 at Lost Corner park.
“This is a real focus point that needs some attention,” said City Manager John McDonough after the chief ran through some worrisome fire stats.
Sandy Springs firefighters have battled 38 fires in multifamily complexes in the past 11 months, Sanders said. Of those blazes, 42 percent began in the unit’s cooking area. In the past nine years, there have been 420 multifamily fires in the city, with 174 starting in the kitchen area. One recent blaze caused by a man attempting to fry a frozen chicken left a woman paralyzed when she jumped from a window to escape the flames, Sanders said.
Older apartments built before modern fire codes typically lack sprinklers and fire alarm systems, Sanders said. In Sandy Springs, 72 percent of older apartment complexes have no monitored fire alarms and 63 percent have no sprinklers, he said.
Current code requires apartment owners to install sprinklers and alarms if they do major renovations, but there can be dispute about the level of rehab triggering that requirement, the fire chief said.
Possible solutions used in other jurisdictions include requiring a single sprinkler or an automatic fire extinguisher system just in the kitchen area of an apartment. FireStop brand automatic extinguishers, which can be installed over ovens, cost about $30 a pair, Sanders said.
Another idea is requiring apartment interiors to have “intumescent paint,” a fireproofing substances that can delay fire from burning through a wall for up to 17 minutes, the chief said. That paint is expensive, running about $325 for a five-gallon can, Sanders said.
City staff likely will draft some sort of fire code update addressing Sanders’ concerns this year and present it to the City Council.