Could Fire Sprinklers, More Water Have Saved Lives In Jersey Shore Motel Fire?

It's a question lingering from the deadly Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Fire on Friday that seems easy to answer.

But the functionality of fire sprinklers at the Mariners Cove Motor Inn has become the hardest to reveal.

That fact, fire experts say, could point to one of the key reasons why the fire moved so quickly and became so deadly, killing four people.

At this stage of the investigation, no one appeared ready to say Sunday whether fire sprinklers were even required in a building that has housed displaced victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Richard Skinner, former northeast regional manager at the National Fire Sprinkler Association, noted that dispatch calls showed emergency personnel scrambled to bring in additional water as the fire raged.

That dilemma, he said, is a common problem firefighters face when they work to suppress a blaze in a building that lacks adequate and functional fire sprinklers.

"Had it been a sprinkler building, the area of origin would have had sprinklers go off, and then nothing more than two hand lines off the engine could have knocked down what was there," he said.

Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County, N.J. Prosecutor's Office, declined to discuss the functionality of sprinklers at the fire, saying it's part of the investigation.

Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Vincent Barrella referred comment on the matter to the prosecutor's office.

Indeed, a YouTube recording of the dispatch calls recounted the possible water dilemma firefighters faced at the Mariners Cover Inn.

"We've gotta get some water supply," one caller said, according to the YouTube recording of the calls. "So I'm thinking if we supply the ladder with this five-inch, and shut down that engine, the borough's engine, we'll get more water out of these other hydrants."

"Just be aware that we do have a collapse in the rear. We're going to make an account for everybody and we're going to stop all room search," another caller replied.

While smoke alarms are typically required for every residence, few - if any - were sure if state and local laws should have required the motel to have them, too.

Della Fave, citing the investigation, would not even say whether the Mariners Cove Inn had them. Barrella could not recall early Sunday whether Point Pleasant Beach requires them in a place like the Mariners Cover Inn.

A bill was introduced by the New Jersey Senate in 2012 that would require fire suppression systems in single- and two-family homes. Skinner questioned whether such a law would apply to the Mariners Cove Inn since it has served as a "residence" - albeit temporary - for Sandy victims over the past year.

Fire suppression systems, he noted, would not only assist in a building fire, but also help prevent the blaze from spreading to nearby buildings. In a residential neighborhood, he said, that is a common fear.

"The thing that gets me is that we have buildings that are so close together," Skinner said. "All you need is one of them is to catch fire and the rest of them go up with it."

What are your thoughts on the matter? Please let us know in the comments.
Sheriffchris March 23, 2014 at 11:52 AM
All "Room for Hire" motels and hotels should be mandated for sprinklers. The Investigation will determine how well the installed sprinklers worked, if at all. It is not uncommon for owners, during a cold winter such as the one we have had, to turn off sprinklers to avoid water damage from freezing or because of it, particularly in older construction. We will just have to wait and see what the investigation determines.
Annie Green March 26, 2014 at 09:36 PM
My brother has worked as a volunteer fireman for years. It is difficult working with buildings that are so close together. They always do their best to be prepared and do their job. www.norcalfire.com


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