In aftermath of massive apartment fire, proposed reforms push up against industry norms

The fire that destroyed most of a large apartment complex in northern New Jersey last month has prompted talk of legislation to toughen building codes. But it's not yet clear how those efforts would affect long-established building practices.

The Jan. 21 blaze at the Avalon at Edgewater displaced about 1,000 people and destroyed 240 apartments. Authorities say the fire was started accidentally by workers using a blowtorch during plumbing repairs.

First responders say the fire was worsened by lightweight materials such as engineered wood and by an open, truss roof style. Republican Assemblyman Scott Rumana has proposed a bill that would halt permits for multi-family units using lightweight wood.

Experts say that type of wood is industry standard and would be impractical to ban. Some say the focus should be on augmenting sprinkler systems.