City of Quincy proposes fire code ordinance amendments, fire chief concerned about safety

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 11:12 PM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Quincy City Council wants to take three requirements out of its building codes that would all have to do with fire safety.

The change would affect homeowners and developers who build new, one and two-family homes.

Quincy Fire Chief Bernard Vahlkamp said building materials for newer homes don’t hold up well in a fire.

“Because those materials tend to fail under fire loads and it’s a life safety aspect as far as occupants in the house,” Vahlkamp said.

This affects firefighters’ safety during rescues and your safety when trying to escape, “Which is our main concern,” Vahlkamp said.

Vahlkamp said building codes that include sprinkler systems, fire protection floors and self-closing doors connecting the garage to the house, make new homes safer, but seven aldermen said no to requiring them.

“It’s kind of insulting when people can accumulate a large amount of money, can afford to buy a house and we make the automatic assumption they’re too stupid to know that they absolutely need and they’re uneducated, sprinklering,” 4th Ward Alderman Mike Farha said. “So that’s why I’m opposed to it.”

Only five other aldermen voted to keep them.

“It’s safety... we don’t want people living in cardboard boxes... they’re building them in our city and we just want them built right,” 7th Ward Alderman Jack Holtschlag said.

1st Ward Alderman Eric Entrup said he believes homeowners should make the decision on how they want to protect their homes.

“I truly believe the education point is getting it out there and keeping everybody hearing what you guys are saying and letting them make their own decisions about it,” Entrup said.

“The aldermen made their decision based on what they thought was in the best interest of the city at the community,” Vahlkamp said. “No, I would like to see us still push it I think the best interest of the community would be to start requiring that.”

The amended version of this ordinance will go before council on Monday, Nov. 28.

That’s when they will make their final decision on whether to get rid of those three requirements in the new building codes.

Vahlkamp said industry experts, who have studied how building materials react in fires, drafted these fire codes.

“I think it’s just a lack of education on what the sprinkler systems do and what they can how they can help out the homeowners there is some incentives from the insurance companies on your premiums with some of that, but a lot of it’s just the newness of it all,” Vahlkamp said. “So it’s trying to figure it out where we’re at and trying to move forward from here.”

Meanwhile, he said next week aldermen will act on a resolution that would waive the fees associated with installing sprinklers in new residential construction.

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