Maryland fire safety bill prompted by Silver Spring high rise blaze faces midnight deadline

Maryland lawmakers have until midnight Monday to pass a fire safety bill written in response to the February fire at the Arrive Silver Spring high rise apartment building that killed a 25-year-old woman, injured 15 and left hundreds out of their homes.

As written, by Del. Lorig Charkoudian, a Democrat from Montgomery County, the Melanie Diaz Sprinklers Save Lives Act would have required landlords to install fire alarm in all apartment corridors by July 1 of this year. Diaz was killed in the Feb. 18 fire.

While new buildings are now required to install sprinkles, in older buildings like the Arrive Silver Spring, landlords have until 2033 to retrofit older buildings with sprinklers.

Charkoudian’s original bill, HB1292, would have also required each unit of a high rise not protected by automatic sprinklers to be equipped with a fire extinguisher.

Given the short time period between the bill’s introduction and Monday midnight’s legislative session deadline, the identical Senate version of the bill, SB970, was passed, but key elements — the fire alarms and fire extinguishers — were stripped out.

Under the Senate bill, as of July 1, landlords of older buildings will need to prominently disclose in lease agreements, that potential tenants would need to initial, when the building is not protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

The House has until midnight on Monday to pass Charkoudian’s bill.

If it passes, the bill would require the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, in coordination with the state Fire Marshall and Maryland’s Department of Emergency Management to identify funding sources to help landlords meet the retrofitted sprinkler requirements.

Charkoudian has said that she’ll come back with fire safety bills each year until all apartments have sprinklers.

“Because of the timing of the fire, this bill was filed past the filing deadline, so we knew it would face procedural hurdles despite the merit of the policy,” Charkoudian said in a statement through her spokesperson. “If the bill doesn’t pass today, we will bring it back next year with sufficient time for procedure and discussion. We are fully committed to doing what it takes to make our high rise buildings safe for all occupants.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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