Fire Marshal's office taking stock of safeguards in Columbia hi-rises

Updated: Jun. 16, 2017 at 6:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After a London apartment building burned this week, killing at least 30 people, questions remain about the safeguards in place for buildings everywhere.

In the Midlands, City of Columbia Assistant Fire Marshal Michael Thomas says safeguards vary based on building code.

Thomas says as the risk becomes bigger (if the building has more stories) the more safeguards are needed.

At the Wells Fargo Building on Main Street in downtown Columbia, the sprinkler system is readily visible.

"You're going to have a fire pump, you're gonna have emergency power. Maybe it's a generator, backup power. You're gonna have a sprinkler system and have an alarm system," Thomas says. "The chances of us having a fire in this building that will result in what we saw happen in London is not great at all."

But, a building does not have to be compliant with the fire code retroactively. Thomas says this can be an issue as the fire code is updated every 3 years.

"The fire code works to reduce risk...the higher the building gets, the more functions and systems it gets. We would encourage all building owners and associations to take a look at possibly looking at installing sprinkler systems in buildings that aren't required."

The city began inspecting all Columbia hi-rises, student housing, and commercial buildings to make sure everything is up to code prior to the fire in London.

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