After Waltham apartment fire, safety of wood construction questioned

WALTHAM, MA (WHDH) - Massive flames swept through a luxury apartment complex under construction in Waltham over the weekend, destroying it.

The 10-alarm inferno broke out just weeks after a raging fire destroyed an apartment complex under construction in Dorchester. Now, both fires are raising new questions about the type of construction used to build these projects.

“Within three hours, the whole building was down,” Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy said.

When asked by 7’s Sharman Sacchetti if wood-frame construction should be legal in Massachusetts, McC arthy said “I really don’t believe so when it’s that size.”

Mccarthy said she never supported the 264-unit complex in such a dense area. Even though it’s perfectly legal, she said the wood-frame construction is not safe.

“It’s the cheap way out. And quite frankly, I thank god nobody got killed. They’ll say ‘oh, we can do this.’ Yeah you can, it’s whether you should be doing it,” McCarthy said.

On June 28, a six-alarm blaze destroyed a wood-frame apartment on Dorchester Avenue in Boston near the Ashmont MBTA station.

The Waltham building inspector said the construction company was up to code.

This building and all the buildings contained in the site were complying with the state building code,” William Forte said.

Waltham city councilor Robert Logan is calling on the state to take a second look at allowing wood-frame construction in projects of a large size.

“I’m not an expert in building, but I do know this. I haven’t seen any steel frame and concrete buildings go up in flames like a box of matches,” Logan said.

State fire marshal Peter Ostroskey said projects using wood frame construction are underway across the state. He said the buildings are safe once they’re finished, and fitted with smoke alarms and sprinkler systems. It’s during the process when they’re vulnerable.

“We believe, ultimately, it is a safe type of construction to house people once it’s completed. It’s through that construction process these kinds of accidents can happen,” Ostroskey said.

A spokesman for the Office of Public Safety and Inspections said wood-frame construction is approved in all 50 states.

A spokeswoman for Callahan Construction Managers, the contractors for the construction site, said they’re starting the planning process to rebuild.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

(Copyright (c) 2018 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)