Fire marshal approves Dewey Beach town hall plans

Town manager: Alternatives accepted to protect firefighters
May 3, 2024

Construction of the new town hall, police and EMS station in Dewey Beach will go on as planned after fire marshal concerns have been addressed, Town Manager Bill Zolper said April 30.

At the April 12 commissioners meeting, GMB architect Morgan Helfrich said Duane Fox of the fire marshal’s office notified her in February that a fire lane on Coastal Highway would not be permitted because of the high-tension electric wires running across the property.

Helfrich said she then spoke with Fox about submitting an alternate method of approval that shows the project includes items that go above and beyond code in other aspects to mitigate a lack of fire lane percentage.

Zolper said he worked with GMB, David Naples from town contractor CSI, and Fox to implement alternative modifications for fire lane access. The fire marshal’s office has approved the alternatives with certain conditions, Fox said by phone May 1.

The town had already included several design features that count as alternatives, Zolper said. These include a two-hour firewall between the police station and the EMS garage and quarters. Such a firewall can prevent the spread of fire for at least two hours, Zolper said.

A Class 1 standpipe for fire department use must be installed in the stairwell in the middle of the building on the Rodney Avenue side, Fox said. 

A door that opens onto the sidewalk must be added at the first-floor landing at the base of the stairway in the front of the building facing Coastal Highway, Fox said. Another door will be located in the lobby, Fox said, so that firefighters can come directly inside and be protected.

Construction must use Type 2 noncombustible materials for fireproofing the building, Fox said. All stairs must have two-hour firewalls because they are the only way in and out of the building for firefighters, Fox said, as they won’t have access to windows with their ladders. 

The north wall needs a one-hour firewall, Fox said, and the third-floor roof needs to have 30-by-36-inch smoke vents.

Fox said he accepted those items for mitigation, many of which were already in the proposed design. Fox said he also added the condition that the EMS stairwell between the first-floor garage and second-floor sleeping quarters must have a two-hour fire rating. 

That addition will be a minimal cost to the town, Zolper said, noting he is thankful for the fire marshal’s consideration of mitigation items to approve plans. 

Fox said the measures are needed to protect firefighters as much as possible.

“The fire department needs to be able to do their job as best as they can,” Fox said. “These features are going to allow them to have at least as good an access as a code-compliant building without alternatives.”

The design with alternatives will be resubmitted to the fire marshal office, Zolper said, noting he is now waiting for Delaware Department of Transportation approval of the Rodney Avenue entrance, which he expects to receive within the next two weeks.

After that, a state compliance committee will review plans, because the town has received $3 million from the state, to ensure it is ADA-compliant, which it is, Zolper said; he expects to hear from the committee within two weeks.

At that time, Zolper said, town Building Official Daune Hinks will review plans once again, the county will review the plans and send them back to Hinks. If there are no issues, the project will go out to bid, Zolper said, noting he is still working to secure additional grant funding to assist with construction costs.


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