RIDGELAND, Miss (WJTV) – If you live in an apartment building older than 20 years your complex may be more vulnerable to fires.
Following two structure fires less than 24 hours apart in Ridgeland WJTV 12 speaks to Ridgeland Firefighters on how up to date fire codes don’t apply in buildings older than 2000.
The van mark apartments off Old Canton Road was up flames this morning engulfing several rooms of the apartment.
Because it was built before 2001 new fire safety codes didn’t have to be installed.
In his 18th year as the Ridgeland Fire Chief, Matthew Bailey has never seen multiple fires like over the weekend breakout so close together.
“I ended up having to call in the next shift early to help relieve them,” Chief Bailey told us.
Compared to a one-house fire, first responders face multiple challenges adding more dangers trying to contain apartment fires.
“House fire you have probably one family that’s there, but with apartment complexes, you have upward to 16 families,” Chief Bailey explained. “We have to make sure they’re all cleared while we’re there containing the fire.”
In 2001 Ridgeland passed a new ordinance requiring all new apartment complexes and businesses to have fireproof barriers and sprinklers installed. But those built before then have no law requiring them to update structures meeting new codes.
“If it was a sprinkler building it probably would have held the fire in check till we got there,” Chief Bailey said. “And we wouldn’t have as much damage as we had. Once it reaches the attic area it will travel and it will travel fast.”
However, with each building now having to be rebuilt and renovated more than 25% of the property value, the new apartments will have to meet all new fire safety codes including automatic sprinklers and more fire extinguishers.
“We go into management and check they’re required to have fire extinguishers in every one of the apartment complexes,” Chief Bailey stated. “The smoke alarms should be working adequately.”
Even if it’s not required Chief Bailey recommends people in apartments buy renters insurance in case your building burns down. Thankfully in neither of these Ridgeland fires no one was injured.