An update to the city’s fire and building codes would retain the option for high-rise developers to install oxygen-refilling stations for firefighters. The City Council on Tuesday will talk about reinstating a rule that would allow Firefighter Air Replenishment System (FARS), as opposed to reinforced elevators, in every building 75 feet or taller.
A couple years ago, the city and fire department signed off on a memo that allowed developers to install reinforced elevators in lieu of FARS. But, according to some council members and firefighter union president Robert Sapien, using elevators to carry up oxygen is a slow, dangerous and cheaper alternative.
“Elevators are not reliable under fire conditions,” Sapien wrote in a letter to the city. “FARS is an effective tool for firefighters and is a long-term solution for a real problem in combating fires in high rise buildings.”
Councilmembers Johnny Khamis, Rose Herrera, Kansen Chu and Xavier Campos agree in a memo with keeping the FARS option. “Manual delivery of air bottles is a misuse of highly trained personnel, who could be on the front lines of fire attack performing the critical tasks of saving lives and property,” the memo states.
As San Jose Inside previously reported, the issue is somewhat moot considering the San Jose Fire Department doesn’t train its staff how to use reinforced elevators or FARS. The councilmembers’ memo suggests Rescue Air, the company that manufactures FARS, install a training facility at no cost to the city.
In the spring, Councilman Sam Liccardo and Mayor Chuck Reed proposed doing away altogether with the FARS option, which was made non-mandatory in 2010. The city must have safety codes at least as strong as state requirements—which only require reinforced elevators in high-rise buildings—but it can have more restrictive policies.
The average cost of installing these stairwell air-refilling stations is about $210,000, the city says. That’s about 1/8 of 1 percent of the average cost of building a high-rise in San Jose.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for November 5, 2013:
• Wild pigs are on the loose in Almaden! You may have heard by now that wild boars are rooting up lawns in the south San Jose neighborhood. The Merc dubbed the problem “Aporkalypse Now.” The city proposes an urgency ordinance that would allow licensed trappers to shoot the pigs. Right now it’s illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits.
• San Jose may chip in with the Santa Clara Unified School District to transform Agnews Developmental Center into a high school and public park. Agnews treated the mentally ill for 120 years until the state closed it down in 2009.
• The city may build a major softball complex on a site near Eastridge Mall. The project, funded by $228 million in bond revenue from 13-year-old Measure P, would place softball fields on the property owned by Arcadia/Evergreen Circle Development Company, unless the city opts to build smaller fields on five other potential sites. One alternative, which could cost more and take more time to build, would be to place the fields at the county fairgrounds.
• The City Clerk’s office set new voluntary expenditure limits for next year’s elections.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408-535-1260