CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Dozens of people are without a home this holiday season after Saturday’s massive apartment fire at the Chesterfield’s Old Buckingham Stations Apartment.
Authorities say it’s the fourth massive fire to cause damage to the apartment complex. While there’s still no word on what caused the blaze, 8News learned the fire started on the balcony, where the last three started
8News dug deeper and learned that some fire officials say many fires could have been stopped prior to spreading, but blame Virginia’s current laws, saying they’re not strict enough.
Saturday’s fire adds to Old Buckingham Station’s history of massive, destructive fires — the first occurring in 1995.
“Called my roommate, told her to get moving, got the dog, got the cat, we bolted.”
After the fire in 1995, installing sprinklers on balconies became the law. Investigators for Saturday’s fire said the complex didn’t have an exterior sprinkler system, which are often installed on roofs.
Chesterfield County’s building inspector Ron Clements told 8News balcony fires frequently moves straight to the roof, where they then thrive.
But exterior systems aren’t required by law.
Yet many fire officials, including the union group “Virginia Professional Firefighters” told 8News the Commonwealth’s current building codes fail firefighters and residents inside various types of homes.
In September, the government-run Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development board voted on and overwhelmingly shot down a fire chief’s proposal that would require town homes and single-family homes to have built-in sprinkler systems.
Those against the new requirement, like the Home Builders Association of Virginia, say it’s too expensive and discourages new development.
The fire chief later frustrated, wrote on Twitter “it was defeated based upon the needs for affordable housing, not safety.”
The Virginia Professional Firefighters says another issue is the building materials being used. Clements says many balconies have inexpensive vinyl siding. He says it’s quick-burning, fuel to a fire and multiple officials say one ingredient that fed the blazes at old Buckingham station repeatedly.