Sprinklers could be coming to homes to help with house fire - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Sprinklers could be coming to homes to help with house fire

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)

A state group is pushing to change regulations when it comes to putting sprinklers in homes.

The Fire Sprinkler Coalition said sprinklers can be the difference between life and death.

However, it said many have balked at the idea.

The push comes less than two weeks after 6-year-old Bella Lawyea of Plainfield died in a recently built home that caught fire.

While a cause for that fire hasn't been found, investigators have yet to speak with Bella's mother. She remains in critical condition at a hospital in Rhode Island.

Investigators haven't been able to find anything wrong inside the home, according to fire marshal Paul Yellen.

"Our feeling in Plainfield if that building had residential sprinklers, that may have been a different outcome," said Keith Flood, Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Flood is West Haven's fire marshal as well as the chairman of the Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

He said he wants sprinkler systems in one and two family homes. He said that they are only required in larger houses and apartment buildings.

"The reality in Connecticut, it’s a money issue," Flood said.

He said sprinklers cost 1 percent of the cost of a home. That added cost is part of the reason.

As the state updated its building code on Oct. 1, it didn't include the proposed sprinkler mandate he and the National Fire Prevention Association Want.

The push hasn't gone far in the state legislature either either.

Flood said lobbyists with the state homebuilder's association fought it.

“They are much more expensive than the proponents make them out to be," said Bill Ethier of the Homebuilders Association.

Ethier said that through research his group has done, roughly 12 people per year die in small house fires in Connecticut. Most of them are in older buildings.

Flood said that wasn't the case last month in Plainfield. That's the reason he's urging lawmakers to listen.

"The next time this code can be updated is for next October and that's the Fire Prevention Association’s goal," Flood said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the state Department of Administrative Services. Jeffrey R. Beckham, director of communications, released this statement:

The requirement for sprinkler protection in one and two family homes was deleted from the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) portion of the 2016 Connecticut State Building Code, as it was with the adoption of the 2009 IRC in 2013. At the time the Codes Amendment Subcommittee was reviewing the 2009 IRC for adoption, there were reports of significant issues in other states who attempted to adopt that code with the sprinkler mandate.

In late 2010, the Codes Amendment Subcommittee requested the Department of Public Safety to establish a stakeholder workgroup to review the requirements as they apply specially to the State of Connecticut and provide recommendations. This workgroup identified several potential impediments to reasonable compliance with this requirement, which were outlined in a report to the Codes Amendment Subcommittee in 2011. Based on these findings the subcommittee elected to delete the mandate for sprinklers, but did increase certain other passive protections in lieu of sprinkler protection. The subcommittee left the sprinkler requirements in the code as an option if an owner chose to install them.  

When the Subcommittee reviewed the 2012 IRC, it revisited the issues and the 2011 report, found that little had changed since the 2011 report, and that most jurisdictions that had adopted the IRC had reduced or eliminated the sprinkler mandate.

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