Is your building up to code?

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – A West Knoxville fire that put 60 people out of their homes has many asking if they are safe in their own apartments.

Fire codes are supposed to protect you, but what if your building was built before the codes got tougher?

According to fire officials, when new buildings are built, they have to pass a rigorous inspection before the first person moves in.

But decades ago, the rules were different.

That was the case at the Liberty View apartments, which burnt early Thursday morning.

Rebecca Messer is a Knoxville apartment dweller who said her home has some features that Liberty View lacked.

“There's sprinklers and I know that we have a fire extinguisher by our kitchen," she said.

But why would some apartments have sprinklers while others don't?

According to Knoxville Fire Marshal Roger Byrd, several factors come into play, like the height of the building, it's size, and when it was built."

"It started back in the 1950's, when we had several large fires throughout the United States," said Byrd.

Those fires led to codes getting tougher in Tennessee and across the nation.

Byrd said new buildings now face much more stringent requirements.

But even still, older buildings can't always get by, claiming to be "grandfathered" in.

A renovation can cause the rougher new rules to apply to an older building.

"We only have just a very few buildings that were not required to be sprinkled when they were redone,” he said. “They're smaller buildings, a couple of stories high with a very small footprint."

No matter the age of the building, when it comes to fire safety, you shouldn’t take anything for granted.

"If you have a sprinkler system and, or a fire alarm system in that building, talk to your manager or your maintenance person ands say ‘hey, is this thing up to snuff? Is it in good working order? Have you maintained it,’" he said.

According to the fire marshal, even with sprinklers and other fire protection equipment, paying attention to your surroundings is still important.

You can find out more on fire safety and the state fire marshal’s office by clicking on the Hot Key.

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