Officials urge people to check for firewalls in apartments, duplexes

Officials urge people to check for firewalls in apartments, duplexes

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Firefighters are urging people to check their apartment or duplex to make sure they have firewalls.

A firewall in an East Albany apartment this week saved a family's property, and their lives.

Early Tuesday morning a newspaper delivery woman saw smoke coming from this vacant apartment on Swift Court, and called firefighters.

Inside the apartment, total fire and smoke damage.

But next door, no damage and the sleeping family was safe.

"The good news about these apartments, they have firewalls built within each apartment," said Albany Fire Department Investigator Sam Harris "And thus by having that firewall it protects the other adjoining apartment, and those people's property were saved."

After the 1980's the international residential building code was changed to require firewalls.  But older apartments did not have to meet that standard.

"There are many, many units in Albany, older units. Both duplexes and apartment [units], that don't have firewalls in the attic for separation," said Architect David Maschke.

A firewall separates each apartment with a fire and smoke barrier in the attic, stopping the fire from moving across the ceiling throughout the building.

"You have a smoke barrier wall located where it goes to the peak of the roof," Harris said. "So that you don't displace four families. You only displace one."

Experts recommend anyone check an apartment or duplex for firewalls before renting.

"When they are looking to lease the apartment, they should ask to go up through the attic access hole and take a look at the attic to see if the firewalls exist," Maschke said.

The neighbors on Swift Court remained in their apartment safely, because their building had good firewall protection.

Experts say make sure the firewall in your apartment has the UL stamp, proving it is fire rated.

The sealant used in those fire barriers, around the pipe and cables is red, to prove it is a fire barrier.

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