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4.11.23 – NBC4

The Melanie Diaz Sprinklers Save Lives Act was named in honor of a 25-year-old woman killed in a high-rise apartment fire in Silver Spring, Maryland

A fire-safety bill drafted after a deadly blaze at a high-rise apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland, did not pass in the legislative session that ended Monday, but a lawmaker says the fight continues.

Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D) introduced the Melanie Diaz Sprinklers Save Lives Act, named in honor of a 25-year-old woman killed in a fire at the Arrive Silver Spring apartments on Feb. 18. The bill aims to add fire-safety requirements for high-rise apartments in Maryland.

Melanie’s father, Cesar Diaz, has also been working to make sure that others don’t experience the pain of losing a loved one to a fire. 

“When you lose a daughter, you know, there’s no way you can describe the pain,” he said. 

Melanie Diaz’s apartment and others in her building did not have in-unit sprinkler systems. If the units did have sprinklers, it could have made a massive difference, according to Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci.

“If you’re not prepared for them, you’re going to have these types of tragedies. Putting that fire out and getting it held in check until the fire department arrives is the way to do it,” he said. 

Arrive Silver Spring was inspected just a few weeks before the fire and officials determined that alarm systems were working properly, according to the county Department of Permitting Services.

The management company for the building said in a statement that the building was up to date on all code and fire-safety requirements.

The Diaz family believes more needs to be done to ensure fire safety.

 “I hope something like this never happens to you and your family, but we’re fighting for the law, no matter what,” Diaz said.

Many older high-rises, such as Arrive, were built before automated sprinkler systems were a requirement. Current state code mandates that all older high-rises be retrofitted with sprinklers by 2033. The bill would not have accelerated that timeline but would have offered other key safety measures.

The original version of the bill introduced by Charkoudian included requiring smoke alarms in all public corridors and fire extinguishers in each unit, but those requirements were removed as the bill moved through the state Senate. It also would have required buildings to notify tenants that they are in a high-rise without a sprinkler system, and include a warning in lease agreements. 

The bill previously passed in the Senate but was not scheduled for a vote in the House on Monday. Charkoudian told News4 the bill faced an uphill battle since it was introduced late in the session. She vowed to bring back the bill in January. 

Geraci urged everyone to take fire safety seriously.

“The thing of it is: They are preventable. These fires are preventable. They don’t have to happen,” he said.