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NJ Firefighters Say Better Building Codes Could Prevent Catastrophic Blazes

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- Firefighters in New Jersey said the flames that roared through a huge building in Edgewater could have been stopped easily, with better building codes.

As CBS2's Steve Langford reported, a "tsunami of fire" and a "virtual lumber yard up in flames" were some of the descriptions by fire professionals of the massive blaze in Edgewater that left 500 people homeless in January.

'We were promised these changes seven months ago. We are now looking to see the politicians in the state deliver on these promises," Peter Hodge, President, Bergen County Fire Chief's Association said.

Fire officials from across New Jersey on Sunday, were outside of the remains of the Avalon at Edgewater complex. They demanded an end to what they call toothpick towers made of lightweight wood.

NJ Firefighters Say Better Building Codes Could Prevent Catastrophic Blazes

"They burn 800 times faster, 800 times faster than the legacy homes of conventional lumber did 30 to 40 years ago," Richard Silva, President, New Jersey Prevention and Protection Association.

Officials called the state to make changes to the building code. They want the size of large, lightweight wood frame constructed buildings reduced, mandatory full sprinkler protection to include floors and attics, and masonry fire walls between floor spaces larger than 20,000 square feet.

"We're tired of waiting for the state legislators to do something, we're demanding now that they actually change our building code to be more restrictive with these specific types of buildings," Glenn Corbett of the Bergen County Fire Chiefs Association told 1010 WINS' Rebecca Granet. "In all truthfulness, New Jersey's firefighters do not have the capability of trying to deal with these massive 'toothpick towers.'"

Fire officials did not want to talk publicly about the many apartment complexes in Edgewater and beyond that are built or being built to the same existing fire code that they said could lead to a repeat of the Avalon inferno.

"It would give me pause to move into one of these buildings knowing that they're just not improving the code," Dawn Scala said.

Gov. Chris Christie's office said he has suggested reforms that remain before the legislature.

Neither the Senate President nor the General Assembly Speaker could be reached for comment.

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