Fire officials have proposed an ordinance that would require automatic sprinkler systems to be installed in all buildings more than 4 stories tall.
The sprinklers could contain or even extinguish many high-rise fires, Fire Marshal Joseph Nestor said.
The proposal from the Fire Department is expected to be considered by the Board of Directors next month.
Sprinklers would have to be installed within 3 years in most of the buildings. Owners of buildings considered historic would be given 4 years to comply and could be allowed an additional year if asbestos was used in constructing the building, Nestor said.
About 46 buildings would be affected by the proposal. Owners of buildings without sprinklers would be given 1 year to present an installation plan to the Fire Department.
Since a 1981 ordinance was approved, the city has required new buildings of more than 10,000 square feet to install sprinklers.
Interest in requiring all buildings to install sprinklers was renewed because of two high-rise fires in downtown Los Angeles this year. On May 4, a fire ravaged five floors of the 62-story First Interstate Bank building, the city's tallest structure. Another fire burned two floors of the 38-story Union Bank building on July 18. Sprinklers were being installed in the Union Bank building. The First Interstate Building had no sprinklers.
If a fire breaks out on a floor of a building with sprinklers, Nestor said, the heat-sensitive system mounted on ceilings would activate quickly, spraying water and often dousing the flames.
The cost of the sprinkler systems range from $2.50 to $6 per square foot, depending on difficulty of installation, whether asbestos was used in constructing the building and whether or not the building is occupied, said Pat O'Connell, president of Garvin Fire Protection Systems.
Among the buildings that would be affected by the proposed ordinance are the Hilton Hotel and Pilgrim Tower, a retirement home, Nestor said.
Fire officials are sold on sprinklers in fighting fires. "I have a lot of confidence in sprinklers," Nestor said. "Sprinklers are always on duty."