The Chappaqua Fire Department’s fire chiefs have submitted their feedback on Conifer Realty’s for Hunts Place, known as Chappaqua Station.
In a letter dated March 21, 2nd Assistant Chief Russell Maitland lists safety issues that they have with the proposal, which would be five stories, have 36 apartment units and be situated on 0.38 acres. The issues listed in the letter were communicated to members of Warshauer Mellusi Warshauer, the architecture firm working on the complex, at a March 9 meeting.
In an interview, Maitland explained that they are going to highlight key features of the proposal that will make their jobs difficult, and to discuss ways in which the project can be made safer.
“We’re not in favor or opposed to any project,” Maitland said. Rather, the firefighters’ feedback is advisory in nature.
More than dozen areas were raised in the letter. The important areas of review include the fact that the fire department’s tower ladder is not tall enough to reach the upper two stories of the building. Neighboring fire departments, that have taller ladders Maitland wrote, would need to operate within the building’s collapse zone, which is 1.5 multiplied by the building’s height
Even with the ladder height limits, Maitland explained that firefighters can still operate by using safety stairwells planned for the building, which Maitland explained will be non-combustible. However, a challenge with the stairs, Maitland explained, is the fact that firefighters would be using them while residents are evacuating through them. To provide redundancy, fire escapes were suggested in addition, according to Maitland. When reached for comment, architect Vincent Mellusi said there is little room to do so.
Changes to the exit stairwells discussed include possibly allowing for an operable window in the west stair, along with venting the stairs.
One of the other concerns raised in the letter is the staging of apparatus, a concern that was also raised .
In an interview, Maitland discussed some of the sites that have been suggested in fire scenarios such as using the Saw Mill River Parkway’s exit ramp to the west of the building, but emphasized that where apparatus will be staged depends on the nature of the call. For example, a carbon monoxide call may not be something that warrants use of the exit ramp, as opposed to a more severe call. Where and how apparatus will be staged is also linked to weighing the risk of the job versus the benefit, Maitland explained. For example, a decision to carry more risk may be tied to a call in which human life needs to be saved, and thus determining where vehicles should be in relation to the building.
Mellusi also wrote his own account of the meeting - his is dated March 15 - and while both sides agreed on safety issues, there appeared to be different takes on the role of apparatus staging, in which he wrote that chiefs “indicated they can adequately stage fire apparatus and access the property in response to a fire in this building.”
When asked for comment on his assessment, Mellusi explained that his take was the firefighters would do what it takes to project people, and acknowledged the concerns about staging. He described the difference in letters to just being a matter of how it was worded. Going forward, Mellusi said, they will be reviewing the issues raised.
Other areas of safety discussed include:
- Adding a second fire hydrant near the building, on the Quaker Street bridge
- Having Siamese fire connections, at both the Hunts Lane and Quaker Street entrances
- Placing heat detectors amenity space and fire alarm panels inside the first floor
- Having regular maintenance of the laundry room
- Limiting the height of a wall that’s on top of the roof to no more than nine feet
- Improving the turning area from the building’s property that would go onto Hunts Lane
- Installing a KNOX Box to allow firefighters to have access to keys in mechanical and common spaces of the building
The project is heading to the town board for review. Last Tuesday, board members voted to declare their body the lead agency for the project's environmental review. Ultimately, the project will require town board approval in order to get a required special permit, as well as variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Copies of the fire department’s feedback, along with Mellusi’s account, are attached as PDF files.