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Several Tall Buildings in County Have No Sprinklers

Times Staff Writer

County and Anaheim fire officials revealed Thursday that several high-rise buildings, including a retirement home in Laguna Hills and eight high-rise hotels and office buildings in Anaheim, do not have sprinkler systems.

Fire officials said most high-rise buildings in Orange County were built after 1974, when the state building code set forth a requirement for sprinkler systems and other fire prevention precautions. But fire officials in Anaheim said there still is an “uncomfortable number” of buildings in their city built before 1974 without such systems.

Early Thursday, the 62-story First Interstate Bank building in Los Angeles, which was built before 1974 and had no sprinkler system, was nearly destroyed by a fire that gutted five of its floors.

Capt. Patrick McIntosh, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Department, said the kind of blaze that engulfed the First Interstate building most likely would have been prevented by a sprinkler system.

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“Sprinklers put out a fire early,” he said. “As soon as water flows onto the fire, alarms respond and the fire department is contacted.”

Although it could not be determined in a spot check Thursday exactly how many of the scores of high-rise buildings in Orange County are equipped with sprinkler systems, officials in Anaheim said they just finished a survey the day before of the 28 buildings in the city taller than 55 feet and found eight of them built before 1974 and without sprinkler systems.

Those buildings are: two of three towers at Disneyland Hotel, the 14-story Inn at the Park on South Harbor Boulevard, the 10-story Bank of America building on South Harbor Boulevard, the 9-story Quality Hotel on Convention Way, the 8-story Holiday Inn on South Harbor Boulevard, the 7-story Rockwell building on Miraloma Avenue, the 6-story California Federal building on North Euclid Street, and the 6-story Anaheim Plaza Building on North Euclid.

“This is an uncomfortable number,” said Anaheim Fire Department Division Chief Tim Riley. “If it was up to us, we would have sprinklers on every building. . . . I wouldn’t say (the buildings) were dangerous but they are not as safe as they should be.”

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County fire officials, who cover 11 Orange County cities and the unincorporated areas, said Thursday that two high-rises in their jurisdiction--the 14-story Rossmoor Towers at the Leisure World Retirement Community in Laguna Hills and the Home Savings building in El Toro--were built before 1974 and are without sprinkler systems.

Sprinkler systems are “super-effective,” said Chuck Nicola, assistant fire marshal for Orange County, who noted that the 1974 state building code requires buildings taller than 75 feet--which is about seven stories--to have sprinkler systems.

Nicola said the county and most Orange County cities have amended that law to lower the height requirement to 55 feet, which is about five stories .

Other Safety Equipment

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McIntosh, of the county Fire Department, said that almost all buildings, whether equipped with sprinkler systems or not, do maintain other fire safety equipment.

Most buildings, he said, are equipped with smoke detectors, heat detectors, standpipes which provide water for fire equipment, pressurized stairwells to keep smoke out, and fire control rooms which provide fire alarm control panels and communication equipment for firefighters.

“I would not be afraid to have an office within any of these high-rises,” McIntosh said. But he noted that “having a sprinkler system is like having a 24-hour firefighter on every floor.”

Kirk Watilo, administrator for Rossmoor Towers, which houses about 370 retired citizens, said he is “confident that (the two towers) are safe.” He said that although the towers are not equipped with sprinklers, smoke detectors are located in the apartments, and fire extinguishers and fire alarms are installed on every floor.

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Watilo said that in case of a fire, residents have been instructed to pull the nearest fire alarm and wait for fire personnel to come for them. He said that installing a sprinkler system within the towers has been considered but that it would be unfeasible because the high cost--between $750,000 and $1 million.

TALL BUILDINGS WITHOUT SPRINKLERS

This is a partial list of tall buildings in Orange County that are not equipped with fire sprinkler systems.

Leisure World Retirement Community, 14-story Rossmoor Towers, in Laguna Hills.

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Disneyland Hotel (two of three 11-story towers), Anaheim.

Inn at the Park (14 stories), 1855 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim.

Quality Inn (9 stories), 616 Convention Way, Anaheim.

Holiday Inn (8 stories), 1850 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim.

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Bank of America (10 stories), 300 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim.

California Federal Savings (6 stories), 600 N. Euclid St., Anaheim.

The Anaheim Plaza (6 stories), 505 N. Euclid St., Anaheim.

Rockwell building (7 stories), 3370 E. Miraloma Ave., Anaheim.

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Source: County and Anaheim Fire Departments


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