After Blount Co. fire, do older apartment buildings have to meet

After Blount Co. fire, do older apartment buildings have to meet today's codes?

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We took a look at the fire codes in place and learned older apartments aren't inspected on a regular basis. We took a look at the fire codes in place and learned older apartments aren't inspected on a regular basis.
The State Fire Marshals Office expects buildings to be up to code and have met all requirements during the time it was constructed. The State Fire Marshals Office expects buildings to be up to code and have met all requirements during the time it was constructed.
Yellow fire tape is barricading the collapsed roof of an apartment flames destroyed Monday afternoon. Yellow fire tape is barricading the collapsed roof of an apartment flames destroyed Monday afternoon.

By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

BLOUNT COUNTY (WATE) - Five families in Blount County still without a place to call home Tuesday night after fire forced them out of their apartments.

On Monday, firefighters were trying to control thick smoke and flames tearing through a Louisville apartment complex off Law Road. Fortunately no one was injured or hurt, and now investigators are still working to determine what caused the fire. Though, they believe it started in a first floor unit.

We took a look at the fire codes in place and learned older apartments aren't inspected on a regular basis. That's because the State Fire Marshals Office expects buildings to be up to code and have met all requirements during the time it was constructed.

Yellow fire tape is barricading the collapsed roof of an apartment flames destroyed Monday afternoon.

"Building has some age on it," said Chief Doug McClanahan of the Blount County Fire Department.

The apartment was built in 1973, firefighters say there was no fire wall in the attic causing flames to spread quickly.

"The good thing that happened there, management said that they check the smoke alarms quite frequently, we understand every other month. We did hear evidence that there were smoke alarms in there we actually heard them going off," added Chief McClanahan.

So when an apartment building is this old, who makes sure it's up to code?

"That would have been the State Fire Marshals Office," said Director of Blount County Department of Building Safety Marty Yates.

All of today's safety standards don't apply, older buildings are only expected to meet the code requirements during the time it was being constructed. That's because it wasn't until 2006 when Blount County adopted the International Residential Code.

"Where a person would have to have firewalls separating each unit and if it was a two story complex you would have to have a fire rated floor and ceiling," added Yates.

Annual inspections are only on apartments built after 2006, but that doesn't mean those buildings "grand-fathered" in aren't safe. The State Fire Marshals Office expects building owners to maintain all safety features, like smoke alarms.

It's smoke alarms in Monday's fire that firefighters say helped save lives.

"Excellent job getting everybody out before we got out on the scene yesterday," said Chief McClanahan.

It's important to mention that sprinklers are not a requirement right now in apartments, according to Blount County building safety officials. Though Blount County firefighters hope sprinkler systems are adopted into code.

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