Two people – a resident and a firefighter – were treated for non-life-threatening injuries early Friday morning after flames engulfed a three-story, wood-framed condominium complex in Annapolis, Maryland shortly before 1 a.m. The 3-alarm fire, which took 60 firefighters about 90 minutes to contain, displaced dozens of residents as 22 units are now unlivable.
Witnesses describe the flames as “horrible,” as fire crews were forced to rescue several residents during the overnight incident.
“In structures built with combustible materials, the risk to residents and firefighters alike is much higher,” said Fire Chief Steve Lohr of Hagerstown, MD. “There’s no question that building with resilient materials results in more durable communities.”
Previous legislative efforts to strengthen Maryland’s statewide building regulations in 2017 – House Bill 1311 and Senate Bill 722, which sought to establish fire safety features for lightweight combustible wood construction in low- to mid-rise residential buildings throughout the state – were met by opposition from groups like the Maryland Building Industry Association, whose members stand to benefit from the use of cheaper, wooden building materials, as opposed to concrete and steel.
A month after the legislation stalled, more than 200 firefighters were called to the scene of a fire at a wooden apartment complex under construction in College Park, Maryland – the largest fire suppression effort in the history of Prince George’s County
“It’s truly unfortunate that Maryland residents will continue to be exposed to preventable incidents, as dozens of buildings of this nature have caught fire over the last several months nationwide,” said Kevin Lawlor, spokesperson for Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association comprised of fire safety professionals, engineers, architects, community groups and industry experts committed to strengthening the nation’s building codes. “Until state lawmakers address this situation head on, residents will remain at risk.”
In addition to the fires in Annapolis and College Park, there have been a number of incidents at wood-frame apartment complexes or other residential building over the last several months – most notably in West Chester, PA; 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; Overland Park, KS; Raleigh, NC; and Maplewood, NJ. There have been dozens over the last few years.