Saturday, September 13, 2014

Builder cited over sprinklers in San Francisco fire

from sfgate

Henry K. Lee

Updated 4:57 pm, Friday, September 12, 2014

Smoke could be seen coming from the windows of hotel being renovated Monday August 4, 2014. San Francisco firefighters battled a smokey fire at the shuttered Renoir Hotel on McAllister Street. Fire crews closed Market Street and adjoining avenues pouring water into the hotel. Photo: Brant Ward, San Francisco Chronicle
Photo: Brant Ward, San Francisco Chronicle
(09-12) 16:56 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Fire Department issued two citations to a company in charge of a $30 million renovation of the shuttered Renoir Hotel near Civic Center for improperly removing sprinkler systems, a department spokeswoman said Friday.
Build Group Inc. of San Francisco was fined $1,000 for removing or disabling sprinklers at the hotel, which went up in flames in a three-alarm fire Aug. 4 that injured seven construction workers.
A spark, ember or flame from a welding torch being used in a second-floor crawl space caused the fire at 45 McAllister St., said Mindy Talmadge, a Fire Department spokeswoman.
The fire could have been more easily controlled had the sprinklers remained in place, Talmadge said.
Build Group is seismically upgrading and remodeling the seven-story, 83,300-square-foot building that formerly housed the Renoir Hotel. It will become a "high-end boutique hotel with 135 rooms," two restaurants, a conference center and a rooftop bar, according to the company's website.
Cal/OSHA, the state's workplace safety regulator, is investigating the circumstances leading up to the blaze and is focusing on Build Group subsidiary Pacific Structures, to which the project permit was issued, and subcontractor Emerald Steel, said Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Kathleen Hennessy.
Build Group was issued a second $1,000 citation for removing the sprinkler system at a construction site at 218 Buchanan St., Talmadge said. The company had been instructed to leave sprinklers at both sites intact, she said.
In a statement, company spokesman Charlie Goodyear said Build Group was appealing the citations because it believed it followed Fire Department instructions and that it "never received a directive instructing the company to not remove fire sprinklers."
The fire began in an area that was not equipped with a sprinkler system, Goodyear said, adding, "Build Group was in continuous contact with the Fire Department from the beginning of the project and believed it was in compliance with all customary Fire Department regulations for a retrofit of this type."
Henry K. Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @henryklee

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