Charlotte fire leaders explain fire safety plans for high rises

by: Brittney Johnson Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As officials in London investigate a deadly fire that killed 12 people, Charlotte fire leaders are explaining the safety measures in place to protect thousands of people living in high rises.

Charlotte has more than 180 high rises.

Twenty-three of those buildings do not have sprinklers.

Most of those are older, privately-owned condominiums built to proper fire standards before current codes were implemented.

As the manager of a 22-story apartment building in Charlotte, Mike Reid said images of a burning tower in London are particularly haunting.

"In any sense to where someone can't get out, that is just terrible and tragic," Reid said.

Reid said at his building, the Element, there are four escape routes and protected stairwells.

"We have sprinklers in every single unit, including the hallways," Reid said.

These are the features Charlotte fire leaders said will help prevent something like this.

"It wouldn't happen here," said fire marshal Jon Leonard.

It's mandatory for new construction to have sprinklers, alarms and fire separation. Buildings are also inspected annually and fire crews develop safety plans for each building before tenants move in.

Residents and workers also have regular drills.

"There is a meeting place out front and fire wardens who check the areas to make sure everyone is evacuated," said Shaun Sullivan, who works uptown.

"I feel safe," said uptown Charlotte worker Eric Seibert.

Leaders try to focus on prevention and preparation.

"That said, we can't control every variable that goes on. Our job is to be ready to react," said Charlotte Fire Division Chief Kent Davis.

Davis also said crews are constantly dealing with growth and congestion, which impact response times.

"That's a big thing for us. If we can get there before a situation escalates, we can deal with it," Davis said.

Reid said that planning is critical for residents.

"One of the main questions they ask, what's the route, what protective measures do you have," Reid said.

Last year, Fire Station 4 in uptown responded to 8,200 calls. Officials expect volume to jump 46 percent this year. 

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