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Local Officials: Oakland Fire Is A Reminder of Why Fire Codes Matter

Tacoma Fire Department
Tacoma Fire Department Lt. Nels Chandler and Firefighter Marja Stowell conduct a routine inspection.

Firefighters and building inspectors spend their days working to prevent deadly fires like the one in an Oakland, California warehouse. That’s why, when tragedies like this strike, it hits especially close to home.

Fire codes were strengthened in Washington after a devastating fire at a Rhode Island night club in 2003. But Bryan Stevens with Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections says stringent laws will only protect you if you’re using a building as it’s intended.

“What I would say about the incident in Oakland, is it’s really a reminder of why we have building code standards and permit requirements,” said Stevens.

Still, with rents soaring, people are looking for creative ways to live and work. And fires have broken out in abandoned buildings where the homeless have sought shelter. That happens every year in Tacoma, according to the fire code official for that city. The Tacoma Fire Department tries to inspect businesses annually, but they also rely on tips.

“We’ll get a call saying, ‘These guys are say locking an exit door and it just doesn’t seem safe; will you come please look at it?’ And we’ll meet the property owner and quite often it gets resolved quickly,” said Erickson, Fire Code Official for Tacoma.

Keep in mind fire codes are also designed to protect firefighters so they can do their job, Erickson added.

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