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The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority noted a need for sprinklers in older high-rise apartments months before Wednesday’s massive Cedar High Apartments fire killed five people.

The victims were identified as Tyler Baron, 32; Jerome Stewart, 59; Nadifa Mohamud, 67; Maryan Mohamed Mohamud, 69; and Amatalah Adam, 78. Three other people were injured.

The Red Cross is actively working to support the families who were affected by the tragedy. To learn more about how you can help click here.

In addition, an emergency fund has been set up to help the victims.

Cedar High Apartments fire:
Inspection was scheduled

Although the MPHA didn’t specifically budget for high-rise sprinklers in a plan approved in September, the document does list them as a priority.

“… as building codes have evolved, we need to address increased life/safety requirements such as retrofitting our high-rise buildings with sprinkler systems,” the plan states. “MPHA has made infrastructure/building systems a priority and will target these types of improvements with its limited Capital Fund resources until major reinvestment opportunities materialize.”

The Cedar High Apartments fire occurred days before the building was to be inspected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was not known if that inspection will happen today as planned.

Cedar High Apartments fire: need for sprinklers noted months ago

A need for sprinklers in older high-rise apartments was cited months before Wednesday’s tragic Cedar High Apartments fire killed five people in Minneapolis.

Cedar High Apartments fire:
Sprinklers on lower floors

HUD says the building was built in January 1970, when sprinklers weren’t required by law.

The main floor and lower mechanical rooms of the 25-floor building had partial sprinkler coverage, city officials said, but the rest of the building did not have a sprinkler system.

When asked whether sprinklers would have helped control the fire, Fruetel said: “Sprinklers will always make a difference in a building.”

Cedar High Apartments fire:
Building codes not retroactive

Jen Longaecker, a spokesperson for the state fire marshal, said building codes that addressed sprinkler systems existed at the local level in the 1960s. All local building codes were replaced by the state building code in 1972, although there were no state requirements for sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings until the 1979 Uniform Building Code went into effect in 1980.

Longaecker said building codes apply to new construction only. Buildings like Cedar High Apartments would not need to improve their fire protection unless there is substantial remodeling or a change in the type of occupancy.

Cedar High Apartments fire:
Changes necessary, official says

Shane Gray, a retired fire chief who is president of the National Fire Sprinklers Association, told KSTP-TV that states and cities need to look at making retrofitting high-rise buildings mandatory.

“There is an extra cost to retrofitting older buildings with sprinklers, but there is a way to get it done too,” Gray said. “You can offer tax credits and deductions and phase it in over a number of years to help the owners of these buildings afford it.”

Public housing inspections are handled by federal agencies, although the city inspects the building to respond to specific complaints. City records show a few inspections in recent years. The most recent, in 2016, was for failure to clean exhaust hoods “contaminated by grease-laden vapors” every six months; the inspector’s report said the last record of maintenance was four years earlier.

HUD last inspected the building in February 2015 and gave it a physical inspection score of 95 out of 100. According to a redacted summary of the inspection report, inspectors noted that a chute in the trash collection area didn’t latch properly, and that two apartments showed evidence of cockroaches.

The report, however, documented no problems with fire alarm or sprinkler systems.

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