News accounts report that a fire in a downtown building burned five workers Thursday morning. The fire occurred in the AT&T building, located at 1121 Capital Street. The Houston Fire Department responded to the blaze. The five injured employees, some of whom are in critical condition, worked for CenterPoint. They were rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the medical center.
The flash fire originated about 10:00 a.m. among electrical components located in the building’s basement, and it quickly enveloped the employees. In addition, a fire department spokesman stated that the workers may have received 480 volts of electricity. The fire also produced power outages in three neighboring buildings.
Deadly fires have plagued people since long before the infamous inferno that decimated ancient Rome. Yet, they continue to pose a danger to us all, especially those of us who live or work in cities. In fact, earlier this month Houstonians mourned the loss of four fire fighters who were killed when the roof of a burning hotel collapsed.
It is therefore critical that the city provide up-to-date building and fire codes. Few people have the training to evaluate the hazards posed by the design and materials decisions made when constructing houses, schools, shopping centers, and office buildings. Thus, we must trust our leaders to enact proper regulations. Fewer still, however, are aware of the lobbying and trade-offs that accompany revisions to the codes. Some developers and contractors strenuously oppose, and use their influence to defeat, efforts by the fire department and safety officials to improve fire avoidance, warning, suppression, and protection. As a result, we must support our city officials so they will not be deterred when they seek to bolster the safety of all of us who live or work in Houston.