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

Associated Press

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.

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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.