The Fire on Beacon Street

March 31, 2014
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With two major fires in the same number of months in the Back Bay, the need to change the residential codes for multi-unit buildings is a fact that can no longer be ignored.

Wednesday’s fire took a tragic turn when two firefighters lost their lives battling the 9-alarm fire in the eight-unit townhouse and sent others to the hospital.

We urged city officials in February after the fire in the building on Massachusetts Avenue that sprinkler systems should be added to all multi-unit buildings in our neighborhood.

We now call upon city officials to  immediately make sprinkler systems in all multi-unit buildings with four units or more in our neighborhood or similar neigborhoods in Boston mandatory when even one unit in the building requires a new certificate of occupancy.

In our neighborhood, owners of buildings with four or more units will pay almost half the amount in real estate taxes per year as those with buildings with fewer units even though the buildings may be identical in square footage and design.  This difference easily amounts to tens of thousands of dollars.

This type of subsidy should not just fall to the bottom line, but should be reinvested to make these buildings safer not only for the occupants, but for their neighbors who live in some cases less than 20 feet apart.

While investigators are still looking to determine the exact cause of the fire, the simultaneous events of high winds and low water pressure coupled with the lack of nearby hydrants made this tragedy unavoidable.

No one has the ability to predict the future.  But what we can predict is that these  fires will be happening more often and possibly with a greater loss of life if residential codes and city infrastructure are not changed to keep pace with the continuing housing changes in our neighborhood.

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