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State lawmakers pass bill on truss construction

Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro holds

Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro holds decals indicating truss construction that some homeowners would need to display under a proposed state law on Friday, June 13, 2014 at the Albertson Fire Company's headquarters in Albertson. Credit: Newsday / Daniel Rader

A bill aimed at notifying first responders of homes made of truss construction, which experts say can be more easily weakened by fires, has passed the State Legislature.

The legislation, which heads to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would require building departments to alert fire chiefs when a homeowner has applied for construction or modification permits involving truss. Those homeowners, under the law, would have to affix a decal signaling truss construction has been used to an electric meter box outside the home.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines truss systems as structural members, boards, timbers, beams or steel bars joined in a rigid framework, usually in the shape of a triangle or a series of triangles.

The bill follows two recent fires in North Hempstead that officials said involved truss failure. Though Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) introduced a version of the bill five years ago, separate January fires in North Hills and Albertson brought renewed attention to the proposed law.

The bill is modeled on a state law requiring industrial and commercial properties to identify structures made in the truss style.

"Firefighters need as much information as possible at a fire scene to fight that fire safely and effectively," state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), the bill's sponsor, said in a news release.

"There have been a number of incidences where firefighters were almost killed while responding to a residential fire in a home where truss construction was utilized," Schimel said in the release.Michael F. Uttaro, assistant chief fire marshal for Nassau County, said this type of construction -- usually lightweight and relying on gusset plates or glue -- is susceptible to failure during fires. Older types of construction on Long Island and elsewhere, with beams that are nailed together by hand, hold up better, Uttaro said.

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