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Edgewater's Avalon Fire Prepares NJ For 'Concrete Change'

A recent poll found registered New Jersey voters are very supportive of the state making changes to construction codes in the wake of the 2015 Edgewater fire.
A recent poll found registered New Jersey voters are very supportive of the state making changes to construction codes in the wake of the 2015 Edgewater fire. Video Credit: Build With Strength

EDGEWATER, N.J. — A newly-released poll found that 95% of New Jersey voters support changes to construction codes in the wake of the 2015 Avalon complex fire in Edgewater.

A joint hearing of the borough and state to consider rebuilding the burned-down Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex was scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at Borough Hall.

The January 2015 fire “should serve as a catalyst for change to strengthen our building codes and fire prevention efforts," said state Rep. John Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly's Fire Safety Commission. "We can’t wait for another tragedy where lives may be lost."

The blaze, which burned for seven hours, destroyed the 240-unit apartment complex and left 500 people homeless.

The same apartment complex burned down 15 years earlier while it was still under construction -- using the same wood-frame methodology.

The two fires are considered the worst in Bergen County history.

“New Jersey residents have already experienced firsthand the consequences of building with vulnerable and inferior construction materials,” said Kevin Lawlor, a spokesperson for Build With Strength.

“The devastation wrought by the Edgewater fire has been burned into the collective memory," Lawlor said. "And, as such, there’s overwhelming consensus to enact whatever measures are necessary to make sure something like this never happens again."

Structures should be built with resilient products such as concrete — not wood, he said.

New Jersey voters overwhelmingly support legislative changes to make buildings in the state more resistant to fires and natural disasters, the poll revealed.

That includes support for a requirement for concrete and steel frames for buildings over three stories high, as well as proposed legislation that would place limits on construction with wood.

A new video and info graphic examining the Edgewater fire and the reaction from the community was released by Build With Strength Wednesday ( see above ).

“Any consideration of rebuilding the Avalon apartment complex with lightweight wood-framing a third time must be met with incredulity,” Lawlor said.

The borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment was scheduled to hear AvalonBay’s proposal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Borough Hall on River Road.

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