Partial Sprinkler System At Senior High Rise Prevented Disaster, Says Pittsburgh Fire Chief

Nov 19, 2018

Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones is touting a sprinkler system with helping contain a fire at a senior living high rise and saving lives.

A fire broke out within a second floor apartment inside the 10-floor Ebenezer Towers on Dinwiddie Street in the Hill District Saturday night. One person was injured, but is in stable condition. Jones said the building had a partial sprinkler system in place, meaning there were sprinklers in the hallways but not individual units.

"This allowed the other people on the second floor to use the hallway to escape," Jones said.

He said ideally, the complex would have had a full sprinkler system installed.

Smoke and water damage displaced 24 residents on the lower floors. Jones has pushed Pittsburgh City Council to pass legislation to make sprinklers mandatory in high-rise buildings, which would require building owners to install sprinklers within 12 years.

"I think Council understands that my goals here are to reduce the risk to the citizens of Pittsburgh," Jones said. "If I can reduce the risk to the citizens of Pittsburgh, I reduce the risk to my firefighters."

Some building owners have pushed back on the legislation, arguing retrofitting existing high-rises would be too expensive. A public hearing on the measure is scheduled for next Monday.

Since the 1980s, all new high rises in the city have been required to have sprinklers, though it's unclear how many older buildings are without them.

Two deadly high-rise fires happened in Pittsburgh last year. In May 2017, a 75-year-old woman died when a fire broke out in Midtown Towers apartment building downtown. The century-old building did not have sprinklers. In December 2017, an apartment fire in Squirrel Hill killed a 63-year-old man.

The Ebenezer Towers in Pittsburgh houses mostly seniors in about 100 apartments.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.