Following several devastating fires in recent years in Bergen County, New Jersey, local leaders are taking a step in the right direction towards building a safer community. On Wednesday, the Bergen County Board of Freeholders voted in support of a resolution to endorse statewide legislation to amend the state’s construction code for fire safety reasons, working to protect firefighters and residents alike. The county’s endorsement follows similarly adopted measures across New Jersey, including in Union, Gloucester, Camden, Hudson and Essex Counties. Bergen County’s endorsement means that over half of New Jerseyans’ representation supports a state-wide resolution.
The adopted resolution supports Assembly Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1261, legislation that calls for the installation of an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13, measuring the number of stories from the grade plane, using noncombustible materials for construction, and installing a fire barrier with a fire resistance rating of at least two hours that extends from the foundation to the roof.
“Bergen County has already seen enough tragedy at the hand of preventable building fires, and we haven’t forgotten,” said Jim Tedesco, the Bergen County Executive. “Prevention is always the best strategy, and pressing for stronger, safer building codes and non-combustible materials is the easiest way to protect our community. We’re confident that state lawmakers understand the severity of our concern and will act quickly.”
This resolution follows several shocking building fires across the county. In January 2015, a massive five-alarm fire in Edgewater destroyed over half of a 408-unit apartment building, leaving over 500 residents homeless or displaced. One fire chief cited lightweight wood construction as a primary reason for the spread of the blaze. In 2017, a six-alarm fire at a complex in Maplewood using the same construction method destroyed more than two-thirds of the units under construction. Nearby Lakewood, NJ Firefighters battled intense flames that engulfed a senior living community. Nine people were injured, including eight police officers and first responders.
“The resolution passed in Bergen County is part of a statewide push for stronger building regulations and a more resilient New Jersey,” said Ed Donnelly, president of the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA). “More robust building codes are the first step to keeping our families and our first responders safe from harm.”
Build with Strength works with communities, lawmakers, and industry employees to advocate for safer, sustainable building materials. Strengthening local and national building codes is among the organization’s top priorities.