Montana's governor vetoes anti-sprinkler legislation

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on May 3, 2011

Citing "serious public safety concerns" Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer has vetoed an anti-sprinkler bill passed by the legislature.

House Bill 307 would have prohibited the Department of Labor and Industry from adopting mandatory requirements of fire sprinkler systems in one- and two-family dwellings in the state building code, and would have also denied local jurisdictions from adopting same.

When the bill was submitted to the governor he sent it back to the legislature, amended to allow local control. He stated that his amendment would permit "state building codes to adopt a rule that would allow local jurisdictions to adopt and enforce building standards" and to "...decide how and when additional requirements for fire suppression should be required in new construction", emphasizing the importance of providing flexibility to local jurisdictions.

The legislature did not agree with the governor’s amendment. He then vetoed the bill in its entirety stating; "Firefighters across the state who risk their lives every day have run into serious obstacles in suppressing fires in new residential housing projects that have limited water supply or are remotely located from volunteer fire departments. The State Building Codes need to at least have the option of considering mandatory sprinklers."

Although the goal should be for statewide mandatory requirements in the building code, Governor Schweitzer is to be commended for his common sense approach to achieve a workable compromise. The legislature's misguided inflexibility, no doubt based on the usual red herring arguments presented by home fire sprinkler opponents, forced the governor's hand.

The Montana Fire Chief's Association, State Fire Marshal Allen Lorenz, and Montana Safe Kids, among many others, are to be commended for their effective advocacy efforts. They now have another opportunity to provide community awareness and gain greater support for home fire sprinkler requirements. Opponents will surely come back to the legislature in the next session for another attempt to exclude this minimum home safety requirement from the state's building code.

Maria Figueroa