The City of Newark, Delaware is the only community in the state to require fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family home construction. It adopted the home fire sprinkler requirement by ordinance in 2001.
Jerry Clifton, Vice Mayor of the City of Newark, visited the Fire Sprinkler Initiative booth at the NLC Congress of Cities and Exposition to offer the history behind the requirement and his perspective on the issue.
He is currently serving his eighth term on City Council, having been elected in April 1997. He is a native Delawarean, born in Wilmington, Delaware, a graduate of Wilmington High School, and has been a resident of Newark since 1992.
The City of Newark is located on the northernmost part of the State of Delaware. The population is comprised of 32,000 permanent residents plus 16,000 students that attend the University of Delaware.
Mr. Clifton says that in 2001 a former city council member, John Farrell, was chief of the volunteer fire department and a strong supporter of requiring fire sprinklers in all new homes. He drafted an ordinance and made a presentation to the council. The ordinance was adopted in 2001 and the city recently upgraded its code and adopted the 2012 IRC with the requirement intact.
Newark is in New Castle County, whose leadership is vehemently opposed to the requirement. According to Mr. Clifton, the development community is very powerful and a strong opponent. He believes that once the county adopts, the rest of the state will go. He considers this a good possibility
Mr. Clifton says that all the development in New Castle County is happening within Newark city limits. It mostly consists of $500,000 and $600,000 homes. “We have had no push back from the development community…it’s no real issue, it’s just the code and they do it,” says Mr. Clifton. There are $30 million dollars worth of projects currently approved to be built. The requirement causes no negative impact on community development.
Mr. Clifton also believes that part of the issue is educating the public on the value to them, adding: “It is about being able to get their families and their children out in a fire. I don’t want that blood on my hands.”
Recently, a young student set a fire in the kitchen of a home and set a wall on fire. The sprinkler quickly extinguished it with minor damage and no injuries or loss of life. Mr. Clifton says; "that would have been disastrous under different circumstances."
Contact Vice Mayor Clifton for additional information