June 01, 2020
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Biddeford apartment building destroyed in deadly fire wasn’t required to have sprinklers

The apartment building that burned down in Biddeford Monday was more than 100 years old, and had been updated through the years, but was not required to have sprinklers under state law.

The Monday morning blaze displaced at least two dozen people and claimed the life of 89-year-old tenant Arnie Goldman.

Firefighters say they could hear smoke detectors going off.

The apartment building at 45 Hill Street was built in 1900. In its 118 years, it survived at least two major fires, but the third one finally brought the building down.

Paulette Houston says her grandfather once owned the Hill Street apartment building. She and her parents used to live there.

“At one time it was four stories high,” Houston said. “Three apartments per story.”

She says fire destroyed the fourth floor before she was even born. Then in the 1970s, another fire destroyed the third floor. Monday’s deadly fire turned the first and second floors into a pile of rubble.

The deputy fire chief says smoke detectors, and thick black smoke, alerted tenants.

Under state laws and codes for existing apartment buildings, buildings with three or fewer stories and 10 or fewer units are not required to have a fire suppression or sprinkler system.

This apartment building was only two stories and had only six units.

Houston believes sprinklers could have put the fire out, or at least kept it from spreading so quickly.

“I would think it could have helped,” Houston said.

Police say the owner of the apartment building is devastated over Arnie Goldman’s death. No word yet on whether he plans to rebuild.

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