OPINION: Tragic Woodbridge Fire Highlights Need For Sprinklers

By David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board

A nine-alarm fire swept through Colonial Gardens apartment complex in Woodbridge late Tuesday afternoon, leaving more than 100 people homeless. Despite best efforts from firefighters and support from additional departments, the blaze moved quickly, leaving firefighters to battle the fire into the evening.

Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but the blaze caused extensive damage, destroying 52 of the complex’s 190 units, and ruined most of the residents’ belongings. This tragic property loss could have been prevented. Properly installed and maintained fire sprinklers control and typically extinguish a fire before the fire department even arrives on the scene. More importantly, the presence of fire sprinklers mitigates the risk to individuals affected by the blaze, including both occupants of the home and the firefighters who respond to battle the fire.

Although this apartment structure was not required to be equipped with fire sprinklers according to code, due to the date it was built, if fire sprinklers had been present in the building, a tragedy of this magnitude would have been avoided. Instead, sadly many if not all of these resident have lost all of their possessions. If the structure was equipped with fire sprinklers, residents wouldn’t find themselves homeless, but would potentially be back in their homes in a week.

Fire doesn’t discriminate and can strike at any time and in any type of home, including one- and two- family homes, condominiums, townhomes and apartments. Currently, there is pending legislation in New Jersey, bill A1570 in the Assembly, which would make it mandatory for all newly constructed one- and two-family homes as well as condominiums and townhomes to be equipped with fire sprinklers. If passed, this legislation would help to reduce the devastating effects of fires and help protect New Jersey residents in the places where they should feel safest — their homes.

Fire sprinklers are the only proactive form of fire protection, providing firefighters the time they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible, while helping to avoid potential injuries and devastating tragedies like this one.

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