How safe are older buildings?

Published 5:36 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thursday’s downtown fire was a tragic event for a few business owners, but if not for the actions of Suffolk Fire and Rescue, the damage could have been tremendously much worse.

In downtowns across the country, especially those with old and historic buildings such as Suffolk, the dilemma between preserving historic buildings and removing them for new developments is a topic of constant discussion.

The fire on Thursday will again raise the debate of the condition of downtown buildings, the condition of their electrical systems and what dangers persist in older buildings in such close proximity to one another.

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If Thursday’s fire had not been quickly controlled, the damage would not have been limited to just a few buildings or even one side of the street. With old wood, vacant and unkempt conditions, a fire has plenty to feed upon if let loose.

For Suffolk, a historic and vibrant downtown is a must and is often a charming addition to those visiting. But, the condition of that historic and vibrant downtown should not become a danger at any point.

Thursday’s fire was awful for the business owners affected, but, if acted upon correctly, an important lesson can be learned.

Scrutiny should be paid to the condition and contents of vacant buildings, the electrical and if applicable, fire suppression systems, in buildings throughout the historic downtown area.

Today’s actions by business owners, fire officials and city leaders will go a long way in ensuring such another fire does even less damage.