Prieto Introduces Legislation to Amend State Construction Codes

(Edgewater)- Today, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco joined Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to announce new legislation they have developed together to improve fire safety at multi-unit residential buildings, both during and after construction. The bills, which have been introduced in the State Assembly, seek to modify the state’s Construction Code to address fire safety issues brought to light by the major fire in Edgewater in 2015, as well as others that have occurred around the state.

“Ever since the horrible fire that happened here in Edgewater I have been meeting with the many stakeholders involved in this important issue with a goal of creating a legislative solution that will address the safety issues that have become apparent in large residential development in our state,” said Speaker Prieto. “Today I am proud to stand with County Executive Tedesco to announce two bills that we have worked together on that will hopefully prevent another disaster like the ones we have seen from ever happening again.”

The two Assembly bills (A-96 and A-97) are sponsored by Speaker Prieto along with Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-38) and Assemblyman Joe Lagana (D-38). Speaker Prieto met with County Executive Tedesco in order to receive input on the legislation, both because of the County Executive’s experience as a veteran firefighter and emergency management coordinator and his intimate familiarity with the Edgewater fire, which occurred just weeks into his term in January 2015. Tedesco spent several days at the scene of the fire helping to coordinate the county’s emergency response and relief efforts.

“The 2015 fire in Edgewater was one of the worst I’ve ever responded to in more than four decades as a firefighter. Since then, I’ve advocated for small changes to New Jersey’s construction codes which would represent real improvements in fire and life safety for residents, firefighters, first responders, and builders,” said County Executive Tedesco. “I am proud to have worked with Speaker Prieto to develop this legislation, which will hopefully prevent large scale fires like the incident in Edgewater. I thank our Assembly co-sponsors for their advocacy, Speaker Prieto for his leadership, and I look forward to supporting his efforts to enact these changes into law.”

The bills would make several changes to the Construction Code aimed at improving fire safety, including:

– Mandating that fire suppression sprinkler systems be installed in concealed combustible spaces such as common cocklofts and other locations not covered by current building codes in lightweight wood construction exceeding two stories, consistent with NFPA 13 regulations;

– Mandating that unprotected and unheated wood-framed attic areas shall be protected by a dry type sprinkler system in buildings composed of lightweight wood construction;

– Limiting height of lightweight wood construction buildings that do not meet NFPA 13 regulations to two or fewer stories, and limiting per story floor area to 10,000 square feet unless a minimum two-hour masonry or concrete fire wall is included between each attached building;

– Implementing a Fire Watch at major residential construction sites during times when construction crews are not at work staffed by at least one dedicated person with expertise in fire safety;

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