High-rise air-supply rule change nixed

A decision to strike a provision in The City’s fire code that requires emergency air-supply systems in high-rise buildings, a move that sparked an outcry from firefighters, has been overturned.

On Monday, during the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee, San Francisco Fire Marshall Barbara Schultheis announced that the air-supply system requirement would be left in the fire code in addition to fire-resistant elevators, which carry firefighters and equipment, including oxygen tanks, to the upper floors of tall buildings.

On Aug. 23, the San Francisco Fire Commission passed a new version of the fire code that removed the requirement for Rescue Air — which provides an air supply for firefighters working in high-rises to refill their oxygen tanks without having to go all the way downstairs — and replaced it with the fire-­resistant elevators. The version drew the ire of Firefighters Local 798, whose members said some sort of air supply is necessary in high-rise buildings.

Schultheis said she did not expect such an emotional reaction to the changes, as an air-supply system has never been used in San Francisco. The first system, in fact, was installed this year in a high-rise building on Fillmore Street, she said.

The City is updating its fire codes to comply with state codes, which are updated every three years, and is including measures that will soon be highly relevant with a host of new high-rises coming to San Francisco in the next few years, including towers at the Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets and Treasure Island.

arocha@examiner.com

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