One year after fatal Carmel fire, no change in NY building codes

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on May 1, 2013

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.

IoHud.com 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.