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State says 95 clubs need sprinklers, businesses dispute figure
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- More than half of the 177 clubs in Rhode Island must install sprinklers under the new fire safety code passed in the aftermath of the deadly Station nightclub fire.

A new statewide survey compiled by the state fire marshal's office says 95 clubs don't meet the new sprinkler requirement, and 55 of those clubs also lack a newly required alarm system that automatically notifies the local fire department when the alarm sounds.

The fire marshal's study, released Wednesday by the governor's office, found that 69 clubs already meet both the sprinkler and alarm requirements.

The survey, which combined data from local fire departments and nighttime surveys by the marshal's staff, does not include large theaters, which would come under the sprinkler law.

Fire Marshal Irving J. Owens told The Providence Journal that his office concentrated first on nightclubs.

"All the others will be addressed accordingly," he said.

Several business owners said they were included on the list by mistake, and they do not need sprinklers under the law.

Brian Casey, owner of Oak Hill Tavern, in North Kingstown, said his business is wrongly on the list.

"I don't need sprinklers," he said. "I have legal capacity of 129." He said his local fire inspector has been through his business and never told him he needed sprinklers.

Under the new law, who needs sprinklers is determined by an inspector on a case-by-case basis. But in general, places of assembly with occupancies above 300 patrons will probably need sprinklers. A lower threshold of 150 patrons applies to businesses that fit the legal definition of a nightclub _ essentially a place that makes most of its money on drinks and cover charges, rather than food.

Nightclubs with maximum occupancies of between 150 and 300 people have until July 1, 2006 to install sprinklers. Larger places of assembly are to install sprinklers by next July, under the law.

The Station nightclub fire killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others. It began when a band's pyrotechnic display ignited flammable foam placed in the club as sound proofing. The club did not have sprinklers.

The fire _ the deadliest of its kind in the state _ sparked an overhaul of the state's fire safety codes.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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