Rhode Island Considers Fire Code Revisions

Proposed legislation would amend state's fire code, following deadly 2003 nightclub fire


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The state's fire code, adopted after a deadly 2003 nightclub blaze, would be clarified under legislation being considered in the Senate.

The bill would make the laws more uniform for communities across the state and would give the Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review more "power and latitude to make decisions," said its sponsor Sen. Joseph Polisena, D-Johnston.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary planned to hear the legislation Tuesday.

The state toughened its fire code after the Feb. 20, 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The blaze, sparked by a rock band's pyrotechnics, killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.

"Like anything else, after you pass legislation, sometimes you find that it needs to be tweaked," Polisena said.

Some businesses have complained that lawmakers enacted unrealistic deadlines for making safety improvements and asked the General Assembly to take another look at the new rules.

Under Polisena's bill, fire officials would be able to extend the time period for building owners to correct violations if there is no imminent threat.

The bill also gives fire officials the right to waive occupancy penalties in certain gathering places provided that a satisfactory safety plan already exists.

The legislation would not change sprinkler requirements for many clubs and other places of assembly.