After Fatal Silver Spring Fire, Elrich Addresses Lack of Sprinklers in High-Rises 

On Saturday, a fire in a Downtown Silver Spring high-rise apartment building killed a woman and displaced many residents. 

On Wednesday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the county hopes to find additional funding to help building owners accelerate required sprinkler implementation without raising rent prices and adding to the existing affordable housing challenges.

Per the county’s Department of Permitting Services (DPS), the State Fire Marshal has mandated that all residential high-rise buildings be fully sprinkled by 2033. The Arrive apartment complex has sprinklers only in the stairwells and mechanical rooms, according to fire and rescue officials. There aren’t any in individual apartment units.

“It’s really important that we do find a way to balance this and minimize the impact on people,” Elrich said during a media briefing Wednesday. “I don’t want to wait 10 years to enact changes that could save lives in Montgomery County, we just have to make sure we can come up with a solution to manage the cost so we don’t displace people in the process.”

Elrich said he understands the 2033 implementation deadline because it is an “extraordinarily” expensive task. He said one fear is it would “definitely” impact rents, and perhaps so severely that many who are already barely affording rent would not be able to afford an increase.

He said property owners do not have the capital to fund the sprinkler implementation on their own, and the county currently has no state or federal support for the transition.

As of Tuesday night, the residents of 64 units were still displaced, according to Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Earl Stoddard. He said a relief fund for residents has already amassed $23,000 in donations.

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