July 20. 2018 2:33PM

Sober house safety: Fire regulations a must

EDITORIAL


Residents of Richie's House facility at Hall and Prescott streets in Manchester gathered recently to talk about life at the sober living house. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)

The opioid drug crisis, as noted in an adjoining editorial, has been a difficult challenge for Manchester and across the state. It is being met with new programs, some of which hold much promise.

But new programs can sometimes be put into place without thinking through their consequences and potential problems.

One such area was noted in Union Leader columnist Mark Hayward's "City Matters" piece a week ago.

So-called "sober houses" are popping up to take in those individuals who are trying their best to break their drug habits. One problem is the risk of fires in congregant housing such as this.

"With our building construction and density, fire codes are very important to the city," said Peter Lennon, the city fire marshal. Lennon says these facilities should be treated like other rooming houses when it comes to safety.

That means sprinkler systems. Some in the sober-living business (it is a business) object to that as too expensive.

Mayor Joyce Craig wants state help in addressing safety regulations for this type of housing. Fire Chief Dan Goonan is open to alternatives to sprinklers.

That's all fine but the first priority here has to be public safety, not just for the occupants of a sober house, but also for the lives and property of those around them. In a city as densely packed as Manchester, the potential for a disastrous fire is always just a spark away.