NEW BEDFORD — Several rooming houses have installed sprinkler systems after the city launched a fire code enforcement program in response to the deadly Acushnet Avenue rooming house fire.

The four-story property at 1301-1307 Acushnet Avenue didn’t have a legally-required automatic sprinkler system when it burned down in March. The fire killed two people, hospitalized five, and displaced dozens.

The Light reported on the building’s lack of sprinklers in April following the deadly fire.

“We absolutely want to find a way to get the rooming houses into compliance with sprinkler law,” Mayor Jon Mitchell told The Light at the time. “We are going to pursue this as aggressively as the law allows us.”

Most of the city’s 33 other rooming houses were also missing sprinkler systems at the time of the Acushnet Avenue fire. But six of them have installed new systems since March, and six more are actively installing systems, the city announced last week. The city is also taking legal action against two rooming house operators over sprinkler compliance.

Five more rooming houses shut down or reduced their operations enough to come into compliance, according to the city’s announcement. The remaining 14 properties already had sprinkler systems that have been re-inspected.

“It has been a team effort to hold rooming house operators accountable, and I am proud of the role that the Fire Department has played,” New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger stated in a news release distributed Thursday.

The city’s announcement did not include any details about the timeline for the new sprinkler installations or the two operators facing legal action. It also did not address whether the rooming houses have other fire code violations.

More questions remain unanswered about how 20 rooming houses were without sprinkler systems five years after the city began enforcing its sprinkler law in 2018, and how they will be monitored in the future.

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A city spokesperson referred questions to the fire department, but fire department officials did not respond to The Light’s multiple requests for an interview on Thursday and Friday.

The 31-unit rooming house on Acushnet Avenue was on the city’s radar for months before the fatal fire.

Fire department officials repeatedly ordered the owners to install a sprinkler system last year. The city even threatened to revoke their lodging house license because of the violation, but they never did.

One person called the building a “death trap” in an email to city officials in July 2022. The sender, whose name was redacted from documents provided to The Light, listed fire code violations including “doors nailed shut,” “smoke alarms missing,” and “inadequate fire escape with trap door.”

All of the alleged violations were corrected in an inspection the following week, fire officials said. But a “board or plank” was blocking the hatch to the fire escape when the building caught on fire on March 28.

Residents jumped out windows to escape as flames engulfed the building.

Email housing reporter Grace Ferguson at

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  1. I am surprised by the number of three floor rooming huses that do not have a fire eescape from the third floor. I saw a lot of affordable paces that wer deathtraps if there were a fire and you lived above the seconbd floor

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