Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Maybe NJ Gov. Christie should try disaster prevention next time

Fire engineer says NJ code could use a tightening

Maybe NJ Gov. Christie should try disaster prevention next time

Pete Bachella of Ringwood, N.J., displays his New Jersey map tattoo to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a visit Saturday to the Seaside Park boardwalk two days after a massive fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Pete Bachella of Ringwood, N.J., displays his New Jersey map tattoo to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a visit Saturday to the Seaside Park boardwalk two days after a massive fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) AP

It's getting tiresome to see New Jersey's popular Gov. Chris Christie standing at a wrecked beachfront boardwalk -- the fire in Seaside Heights, this time -- and promising to rebuild, using taxpayers' money, because New Jersey is tough. Of course Seaside Beach and its business owners had already rebuilt recently, with government aid, after Hurricane Sandy. Why should state-approved reconstruction burn so quickly? Instead of merely being tough, wouldn't it be better if New Jersey were smart, and managed to avoid this kind of wreckage in the first place?

"The fire might not have spread if the building was protected with a fire sprinkler system or if fire barriers were properly constructed and maintained between the various tenants," suggests Hal Cohen, a New Jersey-registered professional fire-protection engineer who lives in suburban Philadelphia.

"Christie should be standing at the podium stating his intention to thoroughly explore the State's constrution code and building inspection process," Cohen told me. "For example, the neighboring state of Delaware requirees all new buildings over 10,000 sq ft in area to be protected with fire sprinklers. Gov. Christie should be demanding the same level of fire safety...These types of fires can be completely prevented; the Governor needs to show leadership." 

Cohe had contacted me about the spectacular and puzzling six-alarm Dietz & Watson ham-and-cheese warehouse fire in Delanco, Burlington County, N.J. earlier this month. He pointed out that, more than the fire chief's concern about danger to his men from a rooftop solar-electric array, fire investigators would likely focus on why the sprinklers and any fire barriers in that six-year-old "state-of-the-art" facility were inadequate to stop that smoked-meat fireball.

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Joseph N. DiStefano
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PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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