Mass. Debates Overhauling Fire Code to Address Chemical Risks

May 30, 2007

State lawmakers are considering an overhaul of Massachusetts’ fire code after the explosion at a chemical plant in Danvers damaged hundreds of nearby homes.

The bill, filed by state Rep. Theodore Speliotis, D-Danvers, aims to make it easier for local fire officials to detect chemical hazards.

Under the legislation, local fire departments could inspect chemical processing plants accompanied by a certified chemical engineer. Currently they can only examine the facilities for fire safety.

The bill also would create a team of regional code enforcement officials to aid the state fire marshall and would allocate nearly $3 million to pay for training and other requirements, which would have to be adopted by Jan. 1, 2012.

The Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts backs the plan.

“We inspect the process of many manufacturers. We think we should be inspecting chemical plants, also,” North Andover Deputy fire Chief William Martineau told the Salem News.

Massachusetts’ fire code hasn’t undergone a major overhaul since it was created after World War II.

The pre-dawn explosion in Danvers on Nov. 22, 2006, which registered 0.5 on the Richter scale, damaged 270 homes and businesses in the Danversport neighborhood, but no one was killed or seriously injured.

“Simply because we were fortunate enough not to lose anyone doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take something away from this,” Speliotis said.

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