The Cambridge City Council last night voted to require owners of apartment buildings and hotels to install smoke detectors.
Councilor David Sullivan, who sponsored the move, and fire chief Leo Regan both stressed that the move is only a first step in equipping all city dwellings with smoke detectors. Several major fires have broken out in the last two months.
"In time, we want to get every building. But implementation will take a lot of time and planning," Regan said. The requirement applies only to buildings with six or more apartments, hotels, motels and other dwelling units.
Harvard dormitories already comply with law, Regan said.
Although Boston and Somerville require detectors in every building, the more limited legislation is necessary for "an orderly process of implementation," Sullivan said.
Tenants will pay about 50 cents more rent each month to cover the cost of the smoke detectors, Sullivan said. But he added that rents may eventually decrease.
"Insurance rates will go down, and those decreases will be passed along to tenants as well," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he pushed for the bill after several fires occurred, including a blaze on Humboldt St. that took three lives. "That tragedy might have been prevented with the detectors," Sullivan said.
The Best Smokers
The fire department will oversee the installation of smoke detectors. Regan said fire officials will test different models of the inexpensive detectors and list acceptable brands, and will inspect dwellings for the detectors.
The council also gave the fire department discretion to decide when the detection systems must be installed. If property owners do not comply, "the ordinary procedure would be to seek an order in court forcing them to install the detectors," Sullivan said.
"Anything that we can use in alerting people to danger--detectors, or a little boy running through the streets with a whistle--can help save lives," Regan said, adding, "The fire chief has smoke detectors in his house."
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