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A Sunday morning blaze that destroyed a third of a 164-unit, wood-frame apartment complex under construction in Manteca, California, is renewing concerns with the use of combustible materials in multi-family residential structures.

The fire, which is expected to be the most destructive in Manteca’s history, comes at a time when a number of buildings of a similar type have been the site of intense fires, fueled by the combustible materials in their construction – most notably in Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Princeton, NJ; East Boston, MA; Lakewood, NJ; Weymouth, MA; Haverhill, MA; Waltham, MA; Charlotte, NC; Warner Robins, GA; Midvale, UT; Oakland, CA; Dorchester, MA; Lawrence, MA; East Hollywood, CA; Lowell, MA; Waterbury, CT, Emeryville, CA; St. Petersburg, FL; Arlington, VA; College Park, MD; Overland Park, KS; Raleigh, NC; and Maplewood, NJ. There have been dozens over the last few years.

In response to the fire, Kevin Lawlor, spokesperson for Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association consisting of community organizations, fire safety professionals, engineers, architects and industry experts committed to mitigating the dangers of fire in mid-rise housing projects through stronger building and fire safety codes, issued the following statement:

“The impact these fires have on the communities they burn cannot be understated. From the cost of property damage and cleanup to the time and resources spent battling these blazes, preventable fires in combustible buildings are a drain on local budgets. In this case, the fire also led to several fender bender accidents on the neighboring highway overpass.

“Thankfully, Sunday’s fire will simply be a matter of dollars and cents, as no one was hurt in the buildings. Yet, God forbid, someone was injured or lost a loved one or a pet, the question would surely be asked ‘What could we have done?’.

“The potential for a tragedy to strike and the vulnerabilities that accompany these buildings must be part of the conversation when rethinking and enacting building codes. As a result, Build with Strength is willing to discuss ideas and work with any lawmaker or community leader who wishes to make their neighborhood a safer place to live.”

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