No sprinklers in rooms of I-Drive resort damaged by fire
Posted: 4:47 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, 2015
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —
9 Investigates a narrow exception that allows some hotels to stay in business without sprinkler systems.
Channel 9 asked about the rules after the fire marshal said the building in the Avanti Resort fire didn't have sprinklers.
Fire investigators believe lightning hit the Avanti Resort off International Drive Sunday evening. The hotel didn't have a lightning protection system and caught fire, causing significant damage to the building.
According to county fire officials, there's no code requirement for lightning protection on commercial buildings. The resort had smoke alarms, but not fire sprinklers because they weren't required when it was built, officials said.
Section 509 of state law offers some answers; it requires public lodging facilities taller than three stories to have a sprinkler system, but not if the building is less than 75 feet tall and the guest rooms exit to exterior corridors.
"That law was written in 1983. It might be wise to revisit that law," said Buddy Dewar, of the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association.
Dewar, who was director of the state fire marshal's office in the 1980s, is now a consultant with the Fire Sprinkler Association. He said the law took effect in 1983, requiring both existing and new properties to add sprinklers.
"It had a seven-year compliance window so it wasn't something that had to be done tomorrow. They could plan and finance for it," he said.
Dewar said the exception for hotels with outdoor corridors was added with the understanding that people could easily get outside in case of fire.
There's no word, however, how many properties fall under the exception in Orange County. The county Fire Marshal's Office said they don't keep a list.
Dewar said he believes there are few hotel rooms in Florida without sprinklers.
The fire marshal said Avanti does not have any outstanding fire code violations.