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Fire Dept mentions building materials risks hours before 5-alarm fire

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Fire Chief Garrison and Executive asst report to Council Committee 25 Mar 2014
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Tuesday, Mar 25 the Houston City Council Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security heard a presentation by Chief Garrison and a chief safety officer on safety standards and policies. Officers underscored the fact that modern construction materials allow fires to spread much more. The report mentioned a video comparing the growth of a fire started in a wastepaper basket in a living room designed and furnished in the 1980's with one designed to current standards. It showed that fires spread more rapidly and require faster response times than they did 30 years ago. Scarcely 2 hours later, a five-alarm fire at Montrose and West Dallas consumed an apartment complex under construction, requiring 200 fire department officers and 80 vehicles.

Fortunately there were no major injuries or deaths in the incident. HFD responded professionally, receiving well-deserved commendations for assuring the safety of the public and the community. Nevertheless, the incident raised serious concerns about whether building code standards needed to be revised.

At her press conference following the regularly scheduled City Council meeting the next day, Mayor was asked by journalists Bob Murphy and Tony Morris about the topic. She pointed out that the situation was aggravated because the new apartments were still under construction. Fire walls had not been installed, sprinklers were not operating, and large open spaces provided much more oxygen to th fire.

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