Edgewater mayor: Proposed fire safety bill essential after apartment complex fire

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Edgewater Mayor Michael Joseph McPartland says it's been three years since one of the most devastating residential fires in New Jersey, and it's his mission to get bills passed to improve fire safety measures.

The sprawling apartment Avalon apartment complex on River Road left hundreds of families homeless on Jan. 21, 2015.

There were no sprinklers to stop the fire when an unlicensed maintenance worker using a blowtorch accidentally ignited a piece of insulation in the wall.

Over 500 first responders from neighboring towns - even New York City - worked tirelessly to put out the blaze which gutted 240 apartments.  The inferno reduced most of the complex to ashes and displaced 500 people.

McPartland was only on the job for two weeks when the high-end apartment complex went up in flames.  Not only was he still getting acclimated to his new role as chief executive officer of the borough, but he had to work quickly to ensure such a devastating life-changing nightmare never happened again in the town he grew-up in.

After the fire, legislation was proposed by the mayor and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco to improve fire safety during construction for multi-unit buildings.  The bills were never put on the legislative agenda.  

The mayor says getting the bills passed is now his mission.

"It got stuck in a lame duck session of the Assembly late in the year here, so we're going to have to start from scratch," says McPartland.

AvalonBay, the property owner is currently in the process of rebuilding the apartment complex.  It agreed to upgrade safety measures at the property with updated sprinkler systems and fire walls.

"With the new system, I think it will compartmentalize the fire and it will prevent it from growing and having a tragedy like we had here," says McPartland.

McPartland tells News 12 he anticipates the official opening of the new apartment complex sometime this summer. 

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