After London fire, how safe are Phoenix high-rises?

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According to the National Fire Protection Association, high-rise buildings in U.S. are less prone to fire risk than shorter buildings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) According to the National Fire Protection Association, high-rise buildings in U.S. are less prone to fire risk than shorter buildings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Firefighters respond to an average of about 14,500 high-rise fires in the U.S. each year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Firefighters respond to an average of about 14,500 high-rise fires in the U.S. each year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
High-rise buildings are more likely to include fire-restrictive construction, fire detection systems and sprinklers than shorter buildings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) High-rise buildings are more likely to include fire-restrictive construction, fire detection systems and sprinklers than shorter buildings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Despite the terrifying images of London’s deadly high-rise fire, high-rise buildings in the U.S. are less prone to fire risk than shorter buildings, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Firefighters respond to an average of about 14,500 high-rise fires in the U.S. each year, but few make significant headlines. That’s because fires in high-rise buildings are less likely to spread beyond the room of origin and less likely to turn deadly than fires in shorter buildings, according to an NFPA report late last year.

For example, just 4 percent of fires in high-rise hotels spread beyond the room of origin from 2009 until 2013. The NFPA defines a high-rise as a building of seven stories or more. In hotels of six stories or less, fires spread beyond the room of origin 11 percent of the time.

High-rise buildings are more likely to include fire-resistive construction, fire detection systems and sprinklers than shorter buildings, the report found.

In the city of Phoenix, all high-rises built after April 2004 must have air tank refilling stations for fire crews.

“Back in the day, we used to have to bring three, four, five bottles to have enough air to fight a fire in a high-rise,” said Phoenix fire inspector Brian Scholl. “Now [with] one bottle, we can go to the firefighter breathing air station, fill our bottles, and go back to the fire and do our job.”

City building codes also require new high-rises to have pressurized stairwells so smoke can’t seep in, along with a dedicated fire command center room where firefighters can control alarms, elevators, and other safety features.

“We can control the smoke evacuation system. If we want to pull smoke from one area, we can turn on the fans and pull smoke from that side of the building,” Scholl said.

The fire code requires buildings to undergo regular fire drills, Scholl said, which are coordinated by the High-Rise Task Force.

In Phoenix, buildings must be compliant with the building and fire codes at the time they were originally built, meaning some older buildings may not have some fire prevention features. However, if a building owner applies for a permit to undergo a significant remodel, the City can require the owner to bring the building up to the latest standards, Scholl said.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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