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!|src=|alt=Home construction|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Home construction|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019102a4daf0970c!New homes built in Olympia, WA on or after July 1, 2014 will be protected by fire sprinkler systems according to The Olympian.

The Olympia City Council decided on the requirement in a preliminary 6-1 vote recently and is expected to take a final vote on the matter next week.

The article includes statements by Angela White, government affairs director for Olympia Master Builders, who said her organization opposes the sprinkler requirement because modern homes are safer and have hard-wired smoke alarms. “I think that we may be moving forward on a mandate for something that is not a problem,” she said.


But she is wrong. Fire in the home is a problem; 83% of those who die in fires do so in homes. Age, disabilities and other human factors  add to the risk. Fire sprinklers provide additional escape time.

Fire sprinkler opponents like to boast that new homes are safer and that smoke alarms are enough. This is a myth. Smoke alarms do a good job of providing early warning, but fire sprinklers keep home fires from becoming deadly.

New methods of construction and modern home contents negatively impact life safety. New homes are built mostly of lightweight/engineered wood components. These components when exposed to fire burn rapidly and are prone to catastrophic collapse without warning, as early as six minutes from the onset of fire.

The synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings add to the increased risk by burning hotter and producing extremly toxic fumes.

Larger homes, open spaces, increased fuel loads, void spaces, and changing building materials contribute to:

    • Faster fire propagation

    • Shorter time to flashover (when everything in a room explodes in flames)

    • Rapid changes in fire dynamics

    • Shorter escape time

    • Shorter time to collapse


For more information on this and other topics visit the Research & Reports section of this site

FEMA report
"The fire safety community must address the fire safety needs of older adults or be faced with the potential of a severe public health problem"
A new report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)- Impact of an Aging Population on Fire and Emergency Medical Services - contains information about the expansion of the older adult population and its impact on fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

The report explains that “this expanding older adult
population may require ever-increasing amounts of public services, health care, and additional services."

Of particular importance to fire and emergency medical services (EMS) is finding a way meet this increased demand for services from this group "that is at a much higher fire risk than the rest of the population.”

The report makes recommendations on activities to reduce risk including; educational outreach, the need to attract and retain a qualified fire force, the integration of new smoke alarm technologies in model codes for homes, and the installation of fire sprinklers as “the most effective fire safety feature that can be added to a home.”

Of particular importance to home fire sprinkler advocates is the following statement: “A significant safety gap exists between the model codes and current federal regulations and programs. This margin of risk can be minimized if the federal agencies involved in fire safety, federal home financial assistance, and construction were to collaborate and implement guidelines that would require current model building codes to apply in all circumstances subject to their collective authority. For example, requiring fire sprinklers in all new manufactured homes and making the installation of residential sprinklers a prerequisite for federal financial assistance for new homes would contribute significantly to the reduction of fire risk to all citizens, including seniors.”

This report represents an additional tool to make the case for fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family dwellings as required in all national model codes.

Urbandale Patch reports that as part of its Citizen’s Fire Academy the Urbandale Fire Department held a live burn to demonstrate the value of home fire sprinklers.

The side by side demonstration included two rooms furnished exactly the same; the only difference was that one of the units was fitted with a smoke alarm and the other with a smoke alarm and protected with a single fire sprinkler.

The unprotected structure filled with black, billowy smoke as the synthetic furnishings began to burn, according to the article. “Completing their eight-week training, participants in the Urbandale Citizen’s Fire Academy rushed in with hoses and doused the fire.”

On the other side of the practice structure, the fire was out in just seconds, on its own without firefighters having to intervene. The smoke remained white – which means that had similar circumstances occur in the home the residents would have had time to get out safely, Fire Chief Jerry Holt explained for the report.

Holt used the final night of the Citizens Fire Academy to drive that point that residential sprinkler systems save lives and property. Holt said he doesn’t understand why homeowners “will put a sprinkler system in the yard, but won’t put one in the house to protect the family they love so much.”

The fire department’s web site debunks the usual myths of home fire sprinkler systems.

An early evening fire at a home in the Town of Nolensville, TN was controlled by two sprinklers. The fire sprinklers prevented major damage to the home, as posted on the Tennessee Fire Safety Inspectors Association’s Facebook page. A mother and her four children escaped unharmed.

Nollesville save
Nolensville adopted fire sprinklers in new home construction by ordinance, in April of 2004. According to the post, Jim Finley, fire marshal for the town said that it is the first known fire sprinkler save.

Fire Marshal Finley stated the initial report of the fire was of flames showing from the second floor windows. “Upon arrival of the first fire unit two sprinklers had activated and only moderate smoke was visible from the exterior and fire damage was limited to one room.” Finley added; “Sprinklers
save lives and property!”

Flowing20sprinklerAs reported by Cape Coral Daily Breeze, a fire sprinkler kept an early morning fire in a condominium unit from spreading and causing additional harm to residents and property.

The fire started in the kitchen, and according to the article, “the response and call for fire services was initiated by the automatic sprinkler and fire alarm systems located throughout the condominium facilities.”

Sam Davis, a Cape Coral home builder who includes fire sprinklers in all new homes he builds, stated he knows this complex and “this fire could have had a very sad ending if it were not for fire sprinkler systems.” Mr. Davis adds; “Condos like this one have a lot of older people living there.”

Ruth B. Balser is the State Representative for the 12th Middlesex District, Massachusetts. Now serving her eighth term, she continues to be an independent progressive voice, fighting for the values and priorities of her community. After a nine-year battle to require sprinklers in commercial properties ("It is really one of my proudest accomplishments," she says. "I feel I had a role in saving lives and there is nothing more important that anyone can do."), Rep. Balser is now an active advocate for the expansion of fire sprinkler requirements, including the efforts to extend requirements in the home.

At NFPA's "Bringing Safety Home" fire sprinkler summit in Chicago last month, Rep. Balser explained how she got involved with the issue of fire sprinkler protection. reported the Nampa and Caldwell fire departments joined forces to conduct a live side-by-side fire sprinkler burn demonstration. Modeled after the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition fire and sprinkler burn demonstration, one of the cells was equipped with one smoke alarm and one fire sprinkler, the other with just a smoke alarm.

In both, the smoke alarm activated around 20 to 30 seconds after the fire start. At 155 degrees (measured at the ceiling), the fire sprinkler went off in one cell and suppressed the fire.

The article quotes Nampa Deputy Chief Doug Strosnider:"The intention of these systems is to allow people to survive. To get you out."

In the other cell, the fire grew quickly and by a minute and a half into the fire, flames were exploding out of the cell and thick black smoke poured out. That fire reached more than 1,000 degrees before firefighters manually extinguished the fire. “Nobody's going to survive this. It's not a survivable event," Strosnider explained, standing inside the badly charred cell.

The article explains why when they built their house, Caldwell Fire Chief Mark Wendelsdorf's family became the first in town to install residential fire sprinklers in a single family home.  "We want to protect our family. We want to protect our investment in our house, and this is a simple way of doing it. Especially when you're building a new home, now is the time to do it," Wendelsdorf said.

The Caldwell Chief says Idaho's legislature has chosen to make fire sprinklers optional when building, even though national codes actually require them. He hopes that will change.

Visit the Idaho Fire Sprinkler Coalition Facebook page for more information and to join the effort to advocate for home fire sprinklers. reports Brevard County Fire-Rescue investigators credited sprinklers with containing a late-night kitchen fire in a three-story Melbourne apartment complex.

No one was injured. Everyone, except for the tenant of the apartment involved, was able to return to their apartments a short time later. The tenant of the affected residence was moved into a vacant apartment.

About 30 firefighters responded to the site and put out the kitchen fire. According to the article officials reported some smoke and water damage. “The fire sprinklers had been activated and they quickly prevented any further spread of fire,” said Lt. Don Slayman, spokesman for Brevard County Fire-Rescue.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) maintains a web page that provides information on residential fire civilian fatalities found on U.S. news media reports. Complete information is not available because investigations may not be complete; thus the statistics found on the page “are only preliminary and should be viewed as such.” However, it is still a good source of information for further follow up, and an additional reference that may be used to advocate for home fire sprinklers.

USFA estimates approximately one-third to one-half of the total number of residential fire fatalities that occur each year are captured on its page. The Information is obtained from news media reports published or aired within 24-48 hours after the fire.

The site includes search criteria by date and reported cause, and additional filters such as; fire victim age, gender, disability and smoke alarm presence. The information may be viewed and imported as a map or as a detailed report.

US fatalities

You can subscribe to receive USFA’s notifications in your inbox.

View the Research/Report section of FSI for additional home fire and sprinkler statistics.

Manhattan award

The Manhattan American reports that the Manhattan Fire Protection District (MFPD) was honored as a fire-safe community at the recent Illinois Residential Fire Sprinkler Symposium in Addison. The district was recognized for passing a fire sprinkler ordinance for newly constructed homes in 2012. MFPD is one of 91 jurisdictions in Illinois to have such an ordinance.

The award was presented by state fire service organizations; including the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, Illinois Fire Inspectors Association, the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB).

"Congratulations to the Manhattan Fire Protection District for recognizing the important life-safety protection that fire sprinklers provide in homes," says Tom Lia, executive director of NIFSAB. "New homes in the Manhattan Fire Protection District will now have the ultimate protection for current residents and firefighters and future generations."

"The summit was extremely successful because it provided a great forum for various professionals from life-safety organizations, including fire and building officials, fire safety engineers and industry officials to share information and methods in support of residential fire sprinklers and their lifesaving value here in Illinois and across the nation," says Fire Chief Bob Tinucci, director of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and chairman of the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

IBHSThe Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is helping to dispel five common myths about fire sprinklers, and highlighting the benefits of home sprinklers to kickoff Fire Safety and Awareness Week (May 6-12), which is part of National Building Safety Month in May.

IBHS dispels the following five myths about home fire sprinklers:

  1. When one sprinkler goes off, all the sprinklers activate - The sprinkler heads react to temperatures in each room individually, allowing only the sprinkler closest to the fire to activate. In fact, 90 percent of fires are contained by the operation of just one sprinkler.
  2. A sprinkler could accidentally go off, causing severe water damage to a home - Records show that the likelihood of this occurring is very remote. In addition, residential fire sprinklers are designed and tested to minimize such accidents.
  3. Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage - The sprinkler system will limit a fire’s growth. Therefore, damage from a residential sprinkler system will be much less severe than the smoke and fire damage if the fire had continued unabated, or the water damage caused by firefighting hose lines.
  4. Home sprinkler systems are expensive - The cost of installing home fire sprinklers averages $1.61 per square foot for new construction, according to the Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report produced by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. To put the cost of a sprinkler system into perspective, that is roughly the same amount people pay for carpet upgrades, a paver stone driveway or a whirlpool bath – none of which save lives.
  5. Requiring residential fire sprinklers will inhibit new home construction - A 2009 study conducted on behalf of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compared residential home construction in four counties in Maryland and Virginia – two with sprinkler mandates and two without. The study concluded the presence of sprinkler mandates did not have a negative
    effect on the number of homes being built.

Citing the fire problem and the benefits of home fire sprinklers, Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO said; “There is no disputing the fact that residential fire sprinklers can save lives and prevent significant property damage" "To that end, IBHS urges state lawmakers to protect the lives, safety and welfare of their constituents by adopting a residential fire sprinklers requirement for all new homes in their state building code.”

IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.

WFCA presidentIn a recent Daily Dispatch column, Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) President Mark Wendelsdorf makes the case for residential fire sprinkler data by citing the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) “unique position to spotlight this life saving technology as part of its reporting system.”

Chief Wendelsdorf talks about the importance of USFA reports titled Civilian Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings and Civilian Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings detailing information found in the data from 2009 to 2011, with no mention of civilian injuries, or fatalities, in residential buildings protected with fire sprinkler systems. He guesses that the number of reported injuries and deaths (in residential buildings with fire sprinklers) was either none, or was so small that it was considered (statistically) insignificant; but that this “should speak volumes.”

On behalf of the WFCA, he thanks the USFA for its “continued effort to fight fire with facts.” He encourages the USFA to “include data sets pertaining to residential fire sprinklers in future reports to help the fire service win the information battle in every state.”

Access the free NFPA Research/Reports on the subject.


!|src=|alt=Retirment homes|width=147|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Retirment homes|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019101ddc8fd970c|height=106!As reported inOttawa Citizen, Ontario will become the first province in Canada to make fire sprinklers mandatory “in all retirement and nursing homes and residences for the disabled.” These include 4,300 existing "care facilities" that are not currently protected with this life safety measure.

The province's technical advisory committee studied the issue and rendered its recommendations to include the change; considered “the most significant safety measure since the introduction of the smoke alarm.” Home operators will have five years to comply with the retrofit requirement from the date the legislation takes force, on Jan. 1, 2014.

The article points out that there are older residences that were built before fire sprinklers were mandated in new retirement homes and, more recently, in all new residential construction more than three stories in height.


Fire chiefs, including no fewer than three Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs  (OAFC) presidents, have been fighting hard for years for the change.

The OAFC is also striving to make fire sprinklers mandatory for all new residential construction; including one- and two-family dwellings. They will continue to work to make this a reality.

Scott Somers is Vice Mayor of the City of Mesa, Arizona and a 17-year veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department. The state prohibits local jurisdictions from requiring fire sprinklers in homes. The City of Mesa has taken an innovative approach to sprinkler advocacy by using federal grants to install home fire sprinklers in low- and moderate-income homes - designed to stabilize troubled neighborhoods and stimulate economic growth.


Mr. Somers spoke at NFPA's "Bringing Safety Home" Fire Sprinkler Summit in Chicago on April 16.

Video: Scott Somers explains how federal program dollars helped fund sprinkler effort.


Mr. Somers spoke about how Mesa is using federal money for sprinkler projects designed to stabilize troubled neighborhoods and stimulate economic growth in a recent issue of NFPA Journal®. Read the full article .

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%; border: 0px; padding: 0px;!Tom Lia named recipient of Fire Sprinkler Initiative's first Home Fire Sprinkler Champion Award

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%; border: 0px; padding: 0px;!Read the March 2013 issue of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter

Amy ActonAmy is a burn advocate and Executive director of the Phoenix Society. "...the fire sprinkler effort is making a difference and although is a tough battle it is far better than the alternative - the life-long impact of recovering from a devastating burn injury."
Alan Breslau, a burn survivor, recognized the value of peer support after visiting a young boy who was a patient at a burn center way back in the late 60’s. After that experience, he wanted to get involved with a national burn survivor organization, but found that none existed. So in 1977, Alan founded the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and went on to work tirelessly for the next 20 some years--because of the power of that peer support visit and the realization that he found meaning in being an ADVOCATE.

Peer support has been the foundation of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors for over 35 years now and we remain the only national organization with that as a core focus. We have gone from one man with a vision who developed a loose network of like-minded survivors who provided support, what we are today, a world-recognized organization with nearly 800 trained peer supporters, serving in 56 burn centers in North America.

Through the Phoenix Society’s Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery program we also realized we are well positioned to add a voice to burn and fire prevention efforts because we know “Why” it is so critical.  Or as the NFPA campaign clearly says – we are the Faces of Fire

Alan Breslau
Phoenix Society's Alan Breslau and child burn survivor

Advocating on Behalf of the Burn Community. The Phoenix Society has long served as the voice that has urged care providers to consider and address the long-term needs of survivors. Alan’s message 35 years ago was that survival alone was not the best outcome---we needed help getting back to living.  Alan also started to testify in front of congress in support of preventing burn injuries, advocating for use of fire-safe cigarette technology as far back as 1981.  So our role in prevention is not new but with a more collaborative approach with our many partners much more effective.

In early 2000, the Phoenix Society assumed a major role in state-level fire-safe cigarette legislation battles by sharing the voice of the survivor along with our national and state partners focused on prevention such as the NFPA. Because of this work together on fire-safe cigarettes we are witnessing a significant reduction in fire deaths related to cigarette-related fires.  As a survivor this has help give a deeper meaning to my experience as a burn survivor and a feeling of empowerment to make a positive change from the tragedy I experienced.   

Making a Difference Together. Over the last several years we have expanded our advocacy efforts by providing specific training to more than 70 advocates who are now serving as a key voice in the battle for use of fire sprinklers in new construction. With this new effort we are assuring that the survivor advocates are emotionally ready for the role and providing focused and specific messages that support our partners in prevention.  Survivors like Rob Feeney  are committed trained Phoenix Society Advocates who are making a difference in our effort to address the fire problem in America. Knowing how to use his personal story with focus and purpose has been a very healing and powerful experience for him.  Being a trained advocate is the first step but we would not use these skills without the engagement of our partners like Common Voices and NFPA.

Alan, a survivor and our founder saw the potential power of this community over 30 years ago in the arena of prevention advocacy, and today we are true members of the team focused on saving lives and providing quality of care for those who are unfortunately impacted by the fire and burn problem in America.  This team approach to prevention and the fire sprinkler effort is making a difference and although is a tough battle it is far better than the alternative - the life-long impact of recovering from a devastating burn injury. 

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors will be providing a day long advocacy course on Oct 9, 2013, during the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress .

Sullivan family
One year ago today, four members of the Sullivan family were killed during a fast spreading fire in their home in Carmel, NY. The blaze killed Larchmont Police Capt. Thomas Sullivan, his wife and their two teenage daughters. The lone survivor of the blaze was Tommy Sullivan Jr. His dad led him to safety before perishing in the fire trying to rescue the rest of his family. What was left of the home has been demolished and an empty lot remains as a reminder of this tragedy. reports that the incident “sounded a warning about how quickly the lightweight construction materials used in many newer homes can go up in flames…” but the lesson has had little impact on building codes. The Sullivan home was equipped with eight electric hardwired smoke alarms as required by code at the time the home was built, but had no fire sprinkler protection.

Citing the threats posed by lightweight building materials and a lack of home fire sprinkler requirements, the life safety community is expressing concern that NY building codes have not changed to include home fire sprinkler requirements in construction to protect the new housing stock that may prevent these tragedies in the future. The article quotes Northeast resident John Viniello, the retired president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association as saying that it is  “a travesty” that
lawmakers made no changes after the Sullivan fire.

The State of New York is currently operating under the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC). The 2009 edition, and subsequent editions of the code, includes fire sprinkler protection in all new one- and two-family home construction. NFPA 1 Fire Code, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code® and NFPA 5000: Building Construction and Safety Code® have included this requirement since 2006. All model safety codes include this minimum requirement to ensure a reasonable level of safety in the home. Removing or not adopting the requirement allows substandard homes to be built.

The New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council is currently debating the adoption of the 2012 edition of the I-Codes. Let’s hope that this fire and its devastation - along with the approximately 2,500 people that die in home fires on average in the U.S. every year – is on their mind as they make this crucial decision.

Home buildingThe Modesto Bee reports that home building permits were up nearly 55% in the Sacramento area of California this year compared to the same period last year. The article explains that the Sacramento results mirror a statewide increase in building permits for single family homes; proving that fire sprinkler requirements do not thwart home building.

California is one of two states that adopted fire sprinkler requirements in all new one- and two-family homes, effective January 1, 2011.  Maryland also adopted the requirement statewide.

In other states, opponents of home fire sprinkler requirements – which are included in all national model codes representing minimum standards to achieve a reasonable level of safety – have lobbied extensively against the requirement on the claim that adoption of fire sprinklers in new home construction will negatively impact home building. This claim is refuted by a study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation that found there is no negative impact in housing supply or cost in communities adopting the requirement, as compared to communities without the requirement.

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) website contains permit data showing an overall average increase of 26% in single family home permits in the U.S., while California has experienced a 51% increase in permits issued for the same period. In contrast, South Carolina - included among the states rejecting statewide adoption of one- and two-family home fire sprinkler requirements - has experienced a 24% increase in permits; below the national average.

View home fire sprinkler legislation/adoption updates by states and local communities.


!|src=|alt=Homesys (2)|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Homesys (2)|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019101b37fff970c!Several proposals that would have provided exemptions to the fire sprinkler requirement in the International Residential Code (IRC) were withdrawn by the proponents during the recent committee action hearings in Dallas, Texas.

“The effect (of the proposals) was to eliminate the mandate by allowing sprinklers to be optional vs. other features.  In one case, the proposals would have allowed a fire extinguisher or sprinklers...,” said Jeff Shapiro of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. According to Shapiro the proposals would have provided an "easy out" for builders to exclude fire sprinklers from new home construction.

Because they were withdrawn, the proposals will no longer be considered at the IRC final hearings in Atlantic City, NJ. The fire sprinkler requirement for one- and two-family homes and townhomes will remain intact in the 2015 IRC.

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!Controversial proposal to require fire extinguisher in kitchen in lieu of sprinklers

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