Within five years, fires similar to one that engulfed Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop could be but a memory.
Tonight, Lawrence city commissioners will consider requiring that fire-suppressing sprinklers be installed in enclosed areas -- most of them basements -- larger than 1,500 square feet. The sprinklers would have to be installed within five years.
Such sprinklers would have prevented the February 1997 fire that ripped through Sunflower, 844 Mass., causing more than $1 million damage and leaving nearby properties with fire- and smoke-related problems.
An investigation showed that Sunflower's fire most likely was caused by "combustibles next to a hot water heater in the basement," said Chief Jim McSwain of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical.
Without any way for firefighters to reach the blaze -- no windows for ventilation, nor any access other than a single stairwell inside -- the fire followed its inescapable and unpreventable path of burning through the first floor and into "out-of-control" status throughout the building, McSwain said.
"With the preservation of downtown being so important to our community, and the inability for fire departments to effectively fight large basement fires, it was important that we propose that this be put into the code," he said.
Commissioners also will consider approving a cooperative agreement for fire-medical services with the city of Olathe.
Under the terms of the agreement, Lawrence fire-medical personnel would respond to fires in Olathe's area, if requested. Likewise, Olathe personnel would come to Lawrence to help out if called upon.
In both cases, a city's personnel and equipment would respond only if it could be spared without harming public safety in the home community.
The pending agreement comes as Olathe plans to build a new station in the Cedar Creek area on Kansas Highway 10.
Today's meeting is set for 6:35 at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.