Lightweight construction risks and state government resistance to home fire sprinklers

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Aug 10, 2012

Engineered lumberCiting the death of a police captain trying to rescue his wife and daughters from a fire in his home a Reuters report has depicted the risks associated with lightweight constructiion and the political climate that keeps life saving fire sprinkler systems from being required in new homes. The captain's wife and the two daughters also died in the fire.

According to the report “the fire spread so quickly that the house collapsed within 10 minutes, which fire officials attributed to the home's lightweight construction.” This fire incident and has also brought to light the predominance of state legislation against the requirement of fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family dwellings.

As detailed previously on this blog, and by Reuters today, state governments have passed legislation forbidding local jurisdictions from requiring fire sprinklers in new homes, and/or prohibiting promulgating authorities from including the provision in statewide codes.

The report shines the light on the money and power that opponents exert to influence this trend. In 2009, Texas was one of the first states to pass such a law. “The law's greatest proponents, builder and Realtor trade groups, spent between $1.7 million and $3 million lobbying that year -- at least four times what sprinkler advocates spent,” says Reuters

According to experts quoted by Reuters “laws preempting building or fire safety regulations are unheard of.” "This is the only code provision that I'm aware of in 30 years of being in this business, where we've seen a preemptive strike that says, 'You can't even consider it. It's not allowed,'" said Gary Keith, vice president of field operations for NFPA.

Read the entire Reuters report