SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Nov. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On Friday, November 20th, fire erupted at The Gateway Apartments in San Francisco’s Financial District. The three-alarm blaze, which started on the 11th floor, led to five injuries, 23 units damaged, and numerous residents displaced. In 2018, the same 22-story high rise had a fire on floors 12-16 that displaced 30 residents. When the building was constructed, it was required only to have fire sprinklers in the basement storage areas, along with water hoses in elevator lobbies, which wasn’t adequate then and certainly not now. 

By the time firefighters arrived on the scene Friday, flames and smoke were seen coming from the southern face of the building. “Due to the fact that there are no sprinklers in this building, it was able to get a little bit of a head start on us,” said San Francisco Fire Dept. Chief Janine Nicholson. If not for the quick work of firefighters, this second blaze in just two years had the potential to cause massive destruction and death to many occupants.   

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a charging scooter battery is being investigated as the cause of the blaze. A San Francisco supervisor has now vowed to introduce legislation requiring sprinklers in older buildings. Supervisor Aaron Peskin said he plans to introduce legislation that would require Gateway, a 55 year-old building, and “the handful of similarly situated buildings” to implement fire-safety measures. “We got lucky — again, but sprinklers are going to be mandated,” Peskin said. “It is time to retrofit the last of these vintage buildings that need to have sprinklers in common areas. The fire marshal and my office have been working out the final details of this legislation that should be ready for introduction in January.” 

“This fire reminds us that all high-rise buildings, especially residential occupancies, need fire sprinklers, especially on this day of our release being the 40-year anniversary of the MGM Grand Hotel Fire in Las Vegas,” explained National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) President Shane Ray. “This fire could have easily been tragic, for residents and firefighters alike. We have assisted the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the past with studies on the retrofitting of older apartment buildings with fires sprinklers and we stand ready to do so again.” 

NFSA stands ready to assist in the advancement of legislation at the local, state and federal levels to ensure all multifamily residential occupancies have fire sprinklers. With the fire sprinkler incentives passed within the CARES Act, building and business owners can utilize changes made to accelerate cost recovery for the installation, upgrade, or retrofit of fire sprinkler systems in their commercial properties. These fires are as avoidable as they are devastating, and we have the solution to change that. There has never been a multiple loss of life in a building with a properly functioning fire sprinkler system. Proposed new legislation, called the High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, will add high-rise residential occupancies to the list of eligible buildings and will be key in getting buildings like this retrofitted. For more information on current and proposed tax incentives, visit www.nfsa.org/taxreform . 

About the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA): NFSA was founded in 1905 and wants to create a more fire safe world, and works to heighten the awareness of the importance of fire sprinkler systems from homes to high-rise and all occupancies in between. The Association is an inclusive organization made up of dedicated and committed members of a progressive life-saving industry. This industry manufactures, designs, supplies, installs, inspects, and services the world’s most effective system in saving lives and property from uncontrolled structural fires.  

For more information about fire sprinklers, how they work and access to additional resources and information, visit www.nfsa.org for the latest material, statistics and a dedicated team of fire safety advocates ready to serve all stakeholders in order to fulfill the vision of a safer world.  

Vickie Pritchett
National Fire Sprinkler Association
615-533-0305
pritchett@nfsa.org