By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Fire Chief Kevin Breen said several local churches without sprinkler systems will be allowed to shelter homeless families if they meet all other fire safety requirements.
Church leaders are working to meet those requirements, which include ensuring all sleeping areas have exterior access if there are no sprinklers, he said.
Doors are being added, he said, and the families could soon occupy the churches. The requirements also call for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
A disagreement over compliance with fire code regulations recently prevented three families from staying at Triumphant Lutheran Cross Church.
St. David’s Episcopal Church and First Congregational Church are scheduled to host families in June, but must comply.
The three Salem churches are among 20 Southern New Hampshire congregations that plan to host homeless families at 11 area churches as part of a network operated by Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County.
The three families, including several children, were forced to stay at Calvary Bible Church in Derry when Triumphant Cross could not be occupied.
Melanie Nesheim, Family Promise’s board president, said the changes are being made at the churches and they will soon be able to host the families. She said the organization didn’t anticipate the problems.
“We learned that some zoning regulations are exempt, but not fire safety codes,” she said.