Posted: Nov 20, 2012 5:17 PM by Shannon Davis and Katy Harris (KXLF News)
Many historic buildings in uptown Butte fall into a grandfather clause.
This clause says that an already existing commercial building does not need fire sprinklers unless you change the occupancy rating.
For example the Sears Building, Metals Bank, and Hirbour Tower are all renovations that changed the occupancy.
Therefore the buildings were required to have new fire sprinkler systems installed.
The Hirbour Tower owner says spending money on a new fire sprinkler system is worth the alternative of losing a structure or life.
"It's a very cheap insurance policy that all your work won't go up in flames," says Hirbour Tower and Kujawa
What's really cool about the Hirbour Building is that the original stand pipe is still intact. Back in the old days fire fighters would hook their hoses onto this pipe that would bring water onto each level of the building in case of a fire.
The Butte Silver Bow Fire Investigator says requiring a sprinkler system for all historic uptown buildings could break the bank for businesses.
The cost of sprinkler systems can be pricey and start at 5 figures.
If a building doesn't have a sprinkler system, it should still be constructed with fire protection.
The Hirbour Tower was built with a steel frame, poured concrete floor and brick filled walls for fire protection.
"If the buildings not sprinkled it has a whole lot more fire safety built into it. You've got a different type of construction. There's a whole lot of ways to make up for it. It doesn't replace it but the buildings are built fire safe," says Butte Silver Bow Fire Investigator John Lasky.
The Hirbour Tower owner says upgrading to a modern fire system makes a historic building the safest for people to inhabit.
"I think that it just makes sense when you have people living in a building, sleeping in a building, working and playing in a building, that you make sure that the building is safe for those occupants and one of the easiest ways to do that is to have a sprinkler system installed," adds Kujawa.
Hirbour Tower was built as an office building in 1902 by Emmanuel Hirbour.
He had his store on the 1st floor.