As San Antonio approaches the third anniversary of the fire in the Wedgewood Senior Housing complex which killed five seniors and hospitalized 19, Fire Chief Charles Hood says he is getting a stronger than expected response to his drive to have new internal sprinkler systems installed in some 200 local high rise buildings, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"We recommended that we have a high rise sprinkler process that would take about 12 years," Hood said. "We wanted it much quicker, but the groups we were meeting with, we understood the costs and the challenges for them."
Hood says of those 200 buildings, all but 35 now have installed working fire sprinkler systems. Of those, only eight are residential, the remaining 27 are commercial buiildings.
City Council this year approved addition of a high rise inspection fee and an inspector to assist with overall program management and enforcement.
The problem was placed into focus earlier this month, when a fire broke out in a seventh floor room of the Fair Avenue Apartments, a San Antonio Housing Authority project. One person was critically burned, another 15 to 20 were relocated.
Hood says in addition to installing sprinklers, he and his commanders are also focused on instructing residents of high rise buildings the safest and quickest thing to do in case of fire. He says the most likely victims of high rise fires are seniors.
"They are people who did not get 'learn not to burn,' 'stop drop and roll' when they were in school," Hood said. "These are people who are going to hoard and save everything they've ever had."
Hood says the education program also trains high rise residents to learn the location of fire exits, to know how to get to those exits, and how to safely exit a burning building.
He says fire drills are also being conducted in high rise residential and commercial buildings.