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Public Hearing Held On Proposal To Require Sprinklers In High-Rise Buildings

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The debate over sprinkler systems in Pittsburgh high-rise buildings drew well over 100 people to a public hearing before Pittsburgh City Council on Monday.

City Fire Chief Darryl Jones wants all buildings over six stories tall, or 75 feet, to be equipped with sprinklers. He says the ordinance will save lives. There is already an ordinance enacted for newly-constructed buildings, but this proposal would extend to all commercial and residential structures no matter when they were built.

city council meeting sprinklers
(Photo Credit: Kym Gable/KDKA)

"If it was left up to me, every building in the city -- single-family, commercial or high-rise -- would be sprinklered," Jones said.

Only four people spoke in favor of the plan.

"There should be hardly any debate on this issue because it's a very minor cost," supporter Joseph Franks said, prompting laughter from those in the room. "So you people spend more on your carpet and on granite countertops than you will to save your loved ones? Laugh about that."


Many property owners are opposed to the proposal, however, worried about installation expenses and potential damage.

"I understand the reason for doing it, but I think you have to be realistic because there are aspects that affect people's lives beyond just that. We find our building by description is a very safe building by its construction and we've done much to protect the people who live in the building. But we're talking about huge sums of money, much more than what Chief Jones has suggested," Ed Smith from Imperial House Condominiums said.

Property owners and apartment and condo dwellers urged council to consider the significant costs.

"People in affordable housing, when their landlord can't pass on the cost to them, their units are going to be sold or razed, and we've seen it before in East Liberty and we'll see it all over Pittsburgh now," Michael Ginsburg said.

"Mandating this retrofit will displace many homeowners, be costly, will set forth a multitude of other issues that plague older buildings. More importantly, they will not prevent fires," community manager Jennifer Burgess said.

No decision was made at that public hearing. Detractors are asking council for a 90-day extension so they can do more analysis.

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