Marietta Discusses Fire Protection Downtown

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It's know for it's small town charm and historical buildings, but now some fear downtown Marietta will some day not be the same if fires continue.

"We're concerned with looking at the forecast for the city," explains Marietta Fire Chief, C.W. Durham, "of say the next one hundred years, what would happen to our downtown district if it continues at the rate it is going."

Downtown shops are typically connected to other businesses and in some cases, residential living. After fires in recent years, some downtown shops still sit empty, some even becoming simply parking lots.

The front street business owner, Tony Baldwin, has both smoke and heat detection after they came along with his security system but after seeing a fire overtake one of his neighboring businesses, he's thankful he made the investment. "When the fire begins to burn and it rages and it's right there beside your property, there's just no sicker feeling in the world that you may lose everything that you invested. That's the way I feel about my neighbors, I feel like I'm doing what I can to protect them."

The fire department is now going to city council to consider better requirements for businesses to keep fires from becoming too big, like in years past.

"We've had two different fires on the 100 block of Front Street," explains Chief Durham. "One was in a building that did not have an alarm system and it burnt uncontrolled until it broke out and someone noticed it on Front Street and the entire building was a loss because the fire had gotten so large before someone notified the fire department. The second example is a business on front street that did have an alarm system and had a fire in that building. The alarm system was set off and it was kept to just that one room with some collateral damage and they were able to open a few days later."

"The entire history Marietta is in the flood plain," says Baldwin. "So when these buildings burn to the ground and are basically just an empty hole in the street, it's impractical to rebuild one and it's basically impossible.

But the downfall-- money. Not all small business owners are able to make the investment. "They can only do what they can do and a lot of times it's not negligence or deliberate negligence but it's just a lack of funds and I think as a community, or as a city government, that we should try and figure out a way to assist who can't do that," continues Baldwin.

Chief Durham says about 25 percent of businesses inspected have some sort of fire alarm or sprinkler system.

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