Old city buildings not required to follow current building codes

Old city buildings not required to follow current building codes

TOPPENISH, Wash. - A fire broke out at the Toppenish Public Works building back in August and fire officials say an employee caused the fire when he was cleaning out a paint gun inside the building.

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The building was over 100 years old and Toppenish building inspector William Rathbone said the public works building wasn't required to be up-to-date with the current building codes.

He said older buildings don't have to constantly update to code, as long as it is still occupied.

"It's a way of being able to continually update the codes with new construction without impacting the existing buildings,” Rathbone said.

But he said even if the public works building had the proper safety measures, a sprinkler system probably wouldn't have stopped the fire.

"Whether or not it would have prevented this particular fire or not is really up to debate,” he said. “This fire had all the fuel it needed and all the oxygen it needed."

Most buildings in Toppenish are older and Rathbone said most were built before the adoption of the current codes and don't have sprinkler systems, but that all depends on the size, occupancy and use of the building.

He said he would prefer to put these safety measures in all the buildings but he has to follow the code.

"I think anytime you can improve the safety of a building, it's always something that both our fire chief and I would love to see,” Rathbone said. “In this case it's a matter of whether or not we have the authority to actually require it."

Rathbone said the Toppenish Fire Department also has an inspection program that periodically inspects buildings around the city.

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