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Commissioners approve new fire safety regulations

"Among the routine business of county commissioners’ “ayes” and “nays” Monday was one item that drew the whole audience’s applause.The commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that is expected to improve fire safety standards for multi-family housing.County Fire Marshall Derrick Crawley explained each point in the ordinance. And although the mood was celebratory - because the ordinance is something fire safety officials and landlords both like - Crawley hushed the room when he talked about the Kona Village apartment fire in Bremerton that claimed four lives in 1997.The ordinance divides multi-family housing into three levels, Crawley explained, and fire prevention measures are the most intense for tall buildings with many occupants.Smoke detectors are required for all types of buildings, to be installed in bedrooms by July 1, 2000. For complexes that have between five and 17 units, an unmonitored fire alarm system is required, and for complexes with more than 17 units, a monitored fire alarm and heat detector system must be installed. Both of these changes must be made before 2003.Bremerton resident Jim Adrian owns property that will be affected by this ordinance. “This is gonna cost me in the five figures, but that’s OK, because it’s the right thing to do,” he told the commissioners.Adrian commended the people who put the ordinance together for their “absolutely unprecedented” cooperation. “Traditionally, the two parties – the fire service and the investment property owners – don’t cooperate,” Adrian said.And although the regulations are expected to cost property owners a total of $4.5 million over the next three years, Adrian said he expects “good benefits in the long run, including trust and a long-term partnership.”Another aspect of the fire safety ordinance is an automatic fire sprinkler requirement. The sprinklers must be installed in buildings with more than 10 units if damage to a building exceeds 50 percent of its assessed value, or if remodeling costs exceed that amount.All buildings will be inspected annually to ensure compliance with the new code. County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido asked Crawley how much time he expected the inspections to take.Crawley said he didn’t anticipate any additional staff time spent on the project, adding that enforcing these rules is “like a code enforcement action.”The largest buildings will also be subject to a “Fire Safety Matrix” that, if not met, would force the building to be repaired or possibly demolished."

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