Officials in Wilmette, Illinois, have passed the village’s first residential fire sprinkler ordinance requiring fire sprinklers in all new homes that are being built with lightweight construction. With the passage of this ordinance, the village becomes the 67th jurisdiction in Illinois to pass residential fire sprinkler legislation.
According to a news release published by the Northnern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, Wilmette’s residential fire sprinkler ordinance is the first occasion that a municipality or fire district has passed such an ordinance specifically over concerns with lightweight construction. For years, Wilmette has required lightweight construction commercial buildings to post placards that alert firefighters to the presence of engineered-wood trusses and joint assemblies.
For years, members of the fire service and fire safety organizations voiced their concerns about fires in homes built with lightweight construction. In 2008, Underwriters Laboratories® (UL) conducted a study to understand the hazards to firefighters posed by use of lightweight wood trusses and engineered lumber in residential roof and floor designs. The findings indicated that dimensional lumber construction withstood the fire tests longer than lightweight engineered wood systems. Therefore, firefighters who may expect 30 minutes of structural integrity with dimensional wood structures will face potential peril in lightweight structures. Additionally, the study found that the synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings add to the increased risk by providing a greater fuel load.