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Fire Marshal Withdraws Proposal for High-Rise Fire-Sprinkler Retrofits

By Benjamin Woodard | August 2, 2013 12:24pm
 The State Fire Marshal wanted fire sprinklers in all Chicago high-rises.
High-rise Fire Sprinklers
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EDGEWATER — State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis withdrew his request for new fire safety rules that would have required all Chicago high rises — regardless of age — to install costly fire sprinkler systems.

"I can finally breathe," said Laura Carl, 71, when she heard the news Friday.

She spoke out at a raucous town hall meeting Wednesday that she would have to move out of her Sheridan Road condo if the rule was ratified. Ken Wood, a representative from the fire marshal's office, was in attendance and nearly booed out of the room.

The proposal would have also required all newly constructed or newly renovated single-family homes to install fire sprinklers.

Carl and thousands of people across the state decried the fire marshal's proposal since it was introduced at the end of June. Aldermen called it "onerous."

"Statewide, whether it was from folks that live in high-rise buildings, folks who live in affordable-housing situations, churches, mosques and synagogues — people found that these rules would have been devastating to their families or their livelihood," said state Rep. Greg Harris. "I think the fire marshal made the right decision to withdraw” the proposal.

Harris said he and his colleagues in the General Assembly received thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from constituents.

He said those people can now "sleep at night."

"This was just a bad bad proposal," he said.

The fire marshal, Matkaitis, issued a statement Friday morning.

"We have received an unprecedented amount of public input and suggestions through emails, letters and public meetings," said Matkaitis, who had been on vacation this week and did not attend Wednesday's town hall meeting in Rogers Park. "In the course of this process, it’s become clear that any proposed state rule needs additional refinement."

Sheli Lulkin, president of a condo-owner coalition along North Sheridan Road, said she was "absolutely delighted" by the marshal's decision.

"The fire marshal and the governor made a big mistake. They woke the sleeping giant," she said, referring to the state's high-rise residents. "For years we have tried to get high-rise owners not to be apathetic. This issue did it. We proved what we can do if we are pushed around.”