Sullivan Cites Fire Hazard in Houses

Calls Delay 'Playing with Lives'

A City Councilor said yesterday there is "no excuse" for Harvard's failure to comply with a Cambridge ordinances requiring the installation of smoke detectors in university dormitories. The ordinance has been in effect since January.

Although Harvard began installing the smoke alarm system in January, when the ordinance took effect, half of the rooms in the College's Houses remain without detectors, according to Harvard officials.

"Harvard is playing with human lives," City Councilor David Sullivan said yesterday.

Many common rooms, hallways, laundry and other utility rooms also remain without smoke detectors, Robert Saltonstall, associate vice president for operations, said yesterday.

Saltonstall said freshman dorms, and rooms in the Law School, Divinity School, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, have been wired for the smoke detector system.


The total cost of the system is estimated at more than $2 million he said.

The ordinance requiring the smoke detectors was adopted by the city council in September of 1980, but the council also approved a 15-month grace period.

Saltonstall blamed the delay in installing the detectors on the need to research available systems, hire contractors, and wait for students to leave the dorms.

Cambridge Deputs Fire Chiet William Cantwell said that the University was making "good progress" and would be finished by the end of the year.

Cantwell called the installation project a "very complex situation."

"Harvard is putting in a very extensive system," said Cantwell. "We're satisfied."

Frederick H. Abernathy, professor of Mechanical Engineering and chairman of the fire safety committee, said he is also satisfied with progress in the installation.

Abernathy said Harvard's is an electrically powered detector system, which is slower to install, but more reliable than the battery-operated system required under minimum city standards.

The new detectors are wired directly to the Cambridge Fire Department and would immediately alert officials there in case of fire.

Abernathy said that the installation delay has not caused any major safety hazards. Harvard's fire record is "extraordinarily good," he said.

Between February and September there were only five fires, three of which occurred in dumpsters, he said