In the early morning hours of Thursday, March 6th a fire ripped through five homes on Grant Avenue in Jersey City. The fire was responsible for displacing 30 and tragically, a family of four was unable to escape. In the aftermath of the fire, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop requested that the names of any streets that closely resemble one another phonetically, be changed in order to prevent possible confusion. While changing around some street names may eliminate the potential for confusion with dispatchers and first responders, it does nothing to proactively protect New Jersey residents from the unpredictability of fire.
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that 56 civilians died in New Jersey from fire related injuries in 2013. It also reports that in New Jersey 13 civilians have died due to fire related injuries since January 1, 2014 as well as at least two firefighters. The fire problem in New Jersey is not going away by changing a few street names and a proactive approach to fire protection must be taken. Residents rely on smoke alarms to protect them during a fire but smoke alarms can only alert people to fire while doing nothing to proactively protect them from dangers.
Fire sprinklers are proactive by containing or extinguishing the blaze thereby mitigating the risk to individuals affected by the blaze including firefighters and other first responders. Recently, legislation in the New Jersey Assembly that would require residential fire sprinkler systems to be installed in all newly constructed one and two-family homes connected to a municipal water system, passed unanimously through the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. If the New Home Fire Safety Act is passed through the general Assembly and Senate, these life-saving systems could prevent tragedies like the Jersey City fire from happening and reduce the number of New Jersey residents whose lives are forever altered or lost due to the ravages of fire. I urge you to check the batteries in your smoke alarms, have and practice a fire escape safety plan, educate yourself on the current fire protection requirements and learn how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the ravages of fire. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their family during this tragedy.
Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board