I-Team: Construction fires seemingly a widespread problem

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The I-Team takes a closer look at residential construction fires.

As agents investigate, builders keep on building.

Almost a week after the big blaze that brought down Metropolitan Apartments in downtown Raleigh, construction is well underway on a number of similar wood-framed projects across the Triangle - with no surefire ways to prevent the next inferno.

"The issue is, the building is naked," Kirk Grundahl, Executive Director of the Structural Building Components Association, told ABC11. "It's defenseless. We have to prevent the fires. If we do that, then the type of construction material is irrelevant."

The ABC11 I-Team has been asking the tough questions about fire prevention to officials, architects, builders and contractors alike. The prevailing opinion maintains that the downtown fire ignited at the worst time: the stage of construction before any firewalls or sprinklers were installed.

BURNED RALEIGH BUILDING HAD BEEN INSPECTED MORE THAN 50 TIMES

Grundahl, whose organization represents trade professionals across the globe, maintains the key to preventing fires is preventing them from igniting in the first place.

"We don't know why, unfortunately, this particular fire in Raleigh started," he said. "Once we know why, we can begin to find solutions."

READ MORE: NFPA REPORT ON CONSTRUCTION PROPERTY FIRES (.pdf)

Still, construction fires seem to be a widespread issue, with a report by the National Fire Protection Association estimating 830 fires at multi-housing construction sites every year.

Indeed, the day after Raleigh, firefighters battled a raging fire at a senior center under construction in Phoenix; on Monday, an apartment fire in Kansas City spread to nearby homes.

READ MORE: RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES UNDER CONSTRUCTION FACT SHEET (.pdf)

The International Code Council, responsible for setting the standards for most building and fire safety codes, convened a roundtable at its Washington, D.C. office to discuss this very issue, noting several causes of construction-site fires: hot-work (welding, cutting, soldering, etc), careless smoking, careless cooking, and arson.

READ MORE: ICC ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION (.pdf)

"It's a security question, it's a training question, it could be a homeless, socio-economic question, it could be drugs," Grundahl said. "It could be a wide variety of things that we've got to understand. No one wants this to happen. There's no way."

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firedowntown raleigh fireI-Teamapartment fireapartmentconstructionRaleighDurham
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