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A plaque commemorates the 15 people who lost their lives from the Elliott Chambers Rooming House fire in 1984. (Photo: Elliott Chambers Memorial Foundation Facebook page)

Usually a time for celebrating, the July 4th holiday began with a tragedy 30 years ago. Around 4 a.m. that morning in 1984, a fire started at the Elliott Chambers Rooming House in Beverly, Mass., and spread up the stairway to living quarters on the second and third floor. Escape was nearly impossible as people were trapped in their rooms. (Back then, rooming houses were known as "death traps" due to the high number of fatalities at these settings.) The incident killed 15 people, including a person who leaped to their death, and injured nine others.

Massachusetts lawmakers responded swiftly to the event; in near-record time, they passed legislation that allowed communities to choose to require sprinklers in boarding and lodging houses. Many communities adopted the law, which led to a decline in rooming house fires and related fatalities. The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services dubs the legislation "one of the great fire prevention success stories."

Noting the rapidity of the sprinkler legislation's passage, Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan wonders why the state's 23 fire deaths in one- and two-family homes in 2013 did not lead to a similar response. "We need to give local communities the ability to choose to require sprinklers when new homes are built, to save future generations of people from dying where they should feel safest--their own homes," Coan stated in a press release on the 30th anniversary of the Beverly fire. "There is legislation pending right now that would do just that. The Legislature in 1984 moved swiftly and decisively in favor of life safety. I hope the Legislature of 2014 will do so as well."


For more information on sprinkler news in the Commonwealth, visit the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition site.&#0160;</p>

New Jersey sprinkler coalitionHail to the Garden State.

According to a legislative roundup on, the New Jersey Assembly has passed a bill that would require residential sprinklers in one- and two family homes. A similar measure was supported by the full Legislature during its previous session, but it received a last-minute veto from the governor.

Showing its sprinkler support is the township of Little Falls; its city council passed a resolution that supports the sprinkler requirement. "We lose 50 to 60 residents in New Jersey annually in residential home fires, and by my standards, that's too many,"  Rich Sylvia, member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition and president of the New Jersey Fire Prevention & Protection Association, told "Fire sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses would be a tremendous benefit to homeowners."

Sprinklers also have numerous environmental benefits, adds Silvia. "There is a tremendous difference in the amount of water used by the fire department compared to one or two sprinkler heads," he says. Research confirms that sprinklers help reduce water usage to fight a home by upwards of 90 percent.

Check this blog often for updates to this story.

Don Corkery, newly-elected president of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, is calling for the the adoption of the new ICC Residential Building Code which includes requirements for fire sprinklers in all new 1- and 2-family homes. "This will be my # 1 priority as president of this association," he said. 


Chief Corkery, speaking at the recent NY State Fire Chiefs Convention, said his group wants state legislators to be heroes and pass this bill, saving lives and property in New York for generations to come.

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Tom Lia with the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board showcases an NFPA 13D simulator to the public.

Elected officials and the general public receive such a regular dose of misinformation from associations with anti-sprinkler agendas that the myths have obtained a threshold of acceptance. We can counter this information via the power of social media and using something more hands-on: an NFPA 13D simulator that can be showcased at fire department entryways or permit offices.


Fifteen Illinois fire departments and community college fire science programs have taken this proactive step to educate their visitors by setting up simulated corner wall units with fire sprinkler pipe, material, and components in accordance with NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.+ Fire Marshal Mike McNally of the Countryside Fire Protection District in Vernon Hills, IL, is one of them, and he chose to locate his at the front doorway so you cannot miss it. Says McNally, &quot;The simulator allows people to touch and visualize the components so they understand the system better.&quot;


Constructed of two-feet-by-four-feet frame walls with cut away &quot;drywall&quot; so you can see the pipe, it contains a water meter, backflow preventer, flow switch, water gauge, alarm bell, spare heads, CPVC pipe (copper pipe and steel pipe are also included), and an inspector test. Descriptive signs and informational brochures are included for the public. The portable displays can be brought to public events, street fairs, remodeling shows, demo houses, Fire Prevention Week open houses, and civic clubs (Rotary, Lions, etc.).


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The simulator might be the first time a homebuyer, builder, or firefighter sees such a system and can help dispel myths. I’ve overheard many comments about the display, including “That fire sprinkler only activates by heat? Really?" 


The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board has the design and specs for a standalone system. Take it as your guide, or obtain one for your fire and building department. (Contact me to obtain this information. )&#0160; Build the walls and then seek out a contractor or fire sprinkler association to install the system.&#0160;


It&#39;s about time that everyone knows what sprinklers are all about and how they save lives and prevent burn injuries. Be proactive and take this step today to fill this educational void.&#0160;

This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.</p>

NJ_FSIThe New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to vote this week on the New Home Fire Safety Act, which would require fire suppression systems in new one- and two-family homes. Last year, a similar bill requiring the sprinklering of new one- and two-family homes was passed by the Legislature, but it was vetoed by the governor.

Extensive research confirms that sprinklers are cost-effective systems that can reduce fire deaths by 80 percent. If you reside in the Garden State, please contact your local legislator and tell them you support this bill.

Homeowner Survey
"Today's homes are safer than ever and don't need sprinkler systems."

"One sprinkler head goes off, they all go off. Sprinklers will flood your home."

"Sprinkler systems add unnecessary costs that deter would-be homeowners from making a sale."

Apparently, educational efforts are helping the public distinguish fact from these popular sprinkler myths. Case in point: a new survey released this week by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition confirms that nearly 75 percent of U.S. homeowners are more likely to buy a sprinklered home versus one without. Moreover, nearly 80 percent of survey participants said sprinklers provide the ultimate protection for residents.

The findings, which are the result of an online Harris Poll of more than 1,000 U.S. homeowners, seem to underscore the role education and advocacy has played in increasing the acceptance of sprinkler systems. For instance, three-quarters of respondents were more interested in a sprinklered home after learning that sprinkler heads operate independently of each other and do not all activate during a fire.

"It's certainly encouraging to see that the majority of Americans would rather buy a sprinklered home," says Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of Outreach and Advocacy and HFSC's president. "We were also reminded of how much awareness work there is to do. Just half of the homeowners recognized the increased fire hazards associated with lightweight construction to residents and firefighters, and only about a third understand how open design increases the danger of a home fire."

Visit HFSC's blog for more details from the survey.

The New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC) has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the adoption of the latest edition of the International Residential Building Code (IRC) without amendment.

The New York State Code Council is working to update the residential code and provisions of the IRC, which calls for the installation of residential sprinklers in newly constructed homes or those residences that undergo reconstruction of more than 50 percent of the home. The requirement for residential sprinkler systems has been a provision of the IRC since the 2009 edition; New York currently operates on the 2006 edition.

"Statistics have shown that approximately 85 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occur in the home," says NYSAFC executive director Jerry DeLuca. "It has also been proven that the installation of residential sprinkler systems in single and multiple family homes is a highly effective way to prevent the loss of life and property from fire."

"The adoption of the International Residential Code will be a top priority for me and the State Chiefs in 2014 and 2015," says Donald Corkery, NYSAFC 1st vice president. "Adoption of the code will make the governor and all of our state leaders heroes in the eyes of the fire service. Acting to adopt the code will save lives."

Stunned city officials in Wyoming recently got up close and personal with fire's fierceness during a live burn demonstration organized by the Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition.


Held in Casper, the event coincided with the annual Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) Conference, which brought together mayors, city council members, clerks, and others. "I received a thank-you email from a WAM member, and a statement of theirs struck home," Brad Carroll, fire prevention specialist with the Wyoming State Fire Marshal'ss office, told NFPA. "It said, 'it still scares me how quickly fire in the nonsprinklered container spread. The timeline must be shared every time sprinkler advocates present information. We must be very aggressive in pursuing these critical, educational elements about the benefits of residential fire sprinklers."

A house fire claimed the lives of an elderly couple a month after a local board voted to omit a sprinkler requirement in new construction.

According to a news report, the Illinois couple, one of whom had mobility issues and used an oxygen tank, was unable to escape in time. Older adults are one of the groups at highest risk of fire death and injury. "This fire is a tragic reminder of the need for fire sprinklers in homes," said Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board and Fire Sprinkler Initiative blogger. "National studies have shown that people tend to feel the safest in homes. However, homes are where the greatest fire risk is present."

The incident occurred in Will County, where a month earlier a board opted to adopt the 2012 International Residential Code but nixed its requirements for sprinklers in one- and two-family homes. All model building codes include this provision. "When a new home is eventually rebuilt on this will lack fire sprinkler protection and be no safer, due to the decision by county officials to remove code requirements," said Lia.

A new 30-second public service announcement encouraging people who are building new homes to ask for home fire sprinklers has been making the rounds on HGTV. The spot, created by the non-profit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, was featured during popular programs like “Property Brothers”, “Curb Appeal”, “Love It or List It”, and “House Hunters International”, and was expected to reach some 32 million viewers with its important message.

“Thinking of building a new home? Now is the time to think about protecting it with fire sprinklers. Nine out of 10 fire deaths happen where you least expect them, at home. And those at greatest risk are children, older adults, and people with disabilities. Despite what you see in the movies, the entire system does not go off; only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates and stops the fire from becoming deadly. If you are building a new home ask for fire sprinklers to protect your family and your home.”


If you’re a homeowner or someone who’s looking to build a new home, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition has free online materials to help you understand why fire sprinklers are needed, how they work, and how they are installed.

Shayne MintzHome fire sprinklers are apparently too important of an issue to be confined to America's borders.

In a recent edition of Fire Fighting in Canada magazine, Shayne Mintz, NFPA's Canadian regional director, describes how NFPA is prioritizing sprinklers in his coverage area. "Our most vulnerable people are relying heavily on us for their protection," Mintz said in the article. "One of the vital initiatives for which NFPA will advocate is the adoption of fire sprinklers in new, residential construction."

Mintz also plans to work closely with the Canadian chapter of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition to boost educational efforts.

For additional thoughts from Mintz, read the full article.  

Chesapeake AP Broadcasters AssociationThe 10-part radio series "Firefight," an all-encompassing look at residential sprinklers and the battle for mandatory installation in Virginia, recently won the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association award for "outstanding news series."

The 2013 report thoroughly examines nearly every aspect of home fire sprinklers and how eliminating the sprinkler requirement mandated in all model building codes is placing firefighters and homeowners in harm's way. Per the report, safety seems to be getting trumped by politics and profit.

A component of this series underscores the dangers of lightweight construction through interviews with firefighters who nearly lost their lives in a fiery home built with this material. Other fire service officials take the local homebuilder association to task for their public assertions that "if we built to that [sprinkler] standard, nobody could afford a home in America."

That argument is "ridiculous," said Fire Chief Marc Bashoor of Maryland's Prince George's County, where a sprinkler mandate has been on the books for 20 years. Since then, states the report, the area has constructed 77,000 homes and hasn't experienced a single home fire fatality. (Check out NFPA's research on sprinkler costs.)

Listen to the full series and share it with anyone who's looking for a comprehensive analysis on the home fire sprinkler debate.

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) are teaming with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) to present a national award that recognizes the local efforts of a fire chief who has worked to increase the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems in his or her service area.

Nominations for the award are now being accepted, and must be submitted by July 11, 2014. Nominations are not restricted to IAFC members but you must be an IAFC member to submit a nomination. 

The recipient will be selected from nominees that have used HFSC's educational materials along with NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources as the foundation of a local, regional or statewide program to educate about the need for more home fire sprinkler system installations as a method to reduce fire injury and death.

The "Bringing Safety Home" Award during the IAFC's Fire & Life Safety Section at the 2014 Fire-Rescue International in Dallas this August.

Chief Kyle Minick

The 2013 recipient of the "Bringing Safety Home" award was Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Minick from the North Charleston (SC) Fire Department. Presenting the award are NFPA's Lorraine Carli and HFSC's Peg Paul.

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Residential sprinkler panel: (from left) Tony Fleming, Metro Fire Protection; Paul Emrath, National Association of Home Builders; Tonya Hoover, California State Fire Marshal; Liza Bowles, Newport Partners

During a well attended education session at NFPA&#39;s Conference &amp; Expo, a panel of experts discussed the evolution of sprinkler costs highlighted in two groundbreaking reports from NFPA.


Leading the discussion was Liza Bowles with Newport Partners, which conducted the sprinkler research on behalf of the Fire Protection Research Foundation. Numerous comparisons were made between Newport&#39;s 2008 cost study and its latest released in 2013. For the latter, researchers sampled a larger pool of homes and communities where sprinkler ordinances are in place. &quot;Since the first study, California and Maryland enacted a statewide ordinance, so we wanted to see how costs may have changed,&quot; said Bowles, president of Newport Partners.

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Liza Bowles with Newport Partners discusses findings from NFPA's home fire sprinkler cost study.

One of the more important findings was the average of a sprinklered square foot, down from $1.81 in the 2008 study to $1.35 in the 2013 study. Maryland and California, noted Bowles, have experienced significantly lower costs since its mandates were put into effect.

Also sitting on the panel was Paul Emrath with the National Association of Home Builders, who praised the study for its comprehensive look at sprinkler costs, not merely installation pricing. He also noted the challenges of homebuidlers embracing sprinklers, underscoring that housing production is still at an historic low.

Bringing builders to the table has been an important component to California's adoption efforts and subsequent installation challenges, said California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover, who also sat on the panel.


Tony Fleming with Metro Fire Protection also joined the group. His company provides sprinkler design, installation, and inspection in six states and Washington, D.C., and has noticed that jurisdictional add-ons to NFPA 13D: +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes+, has been the biggest factor in driving up the costs. Other hidden costs have been application, permit, and review fees.

An audience member with the American Public Health Association noted that other costs should be considered when discussing sprinklers. He suggested time and lost wages that occur from fires. "We should be giving homebuilders the entire argument--not just information on injury prevention," he said.


Watch the following interview with Bowles for more information on the sprinkler study:



500th blog postThere apparently is strength in numbers.

Showcasing the effectiveness of sprinklers, the Sprinkler Saves blog recently recorded its 500th save since the site was launched last November by a series of pro-sprinkler advocates. Of those saves, nearly 40 percent have occurred in residential occupancies.

The blog's goal, per a news bit by the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association, is to positively promote sprinklers by underscoring success stories via daily posts. (Visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site for related successes.) A recent post, for instance, described how sprinklers prevented a van fire from destroying apartment units.

See the successes for yourself--check out the Sprinkler Saves blog today.


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During his last speech as NFPA president at NFPA's Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Jim Shannon praised NFPA's role in reducing the global fire problem, but noted the problem hasn't been eliminated. He specifically addressed home fire tragedies and the necessity of home fire sprinklers.

"Those successes have led much of the public with a more jaded view of the cost of fire protection," said Shannon. "To be very blunt, when people were more afraid of fire, there were stronger measures to deal with the problem in the past than today. With residential sprinklers, we deal with an almost dismissive reaction from public officials. The fire statistics have improved, and we should be proud of that. But at NFPA, we’re not satisfied with the progress we’ve made. We want to eliminate all fire deaths, injuries, and property losses."


Read more of Shannon's speech by visiting NFPA's Conference and Expo blog.</span></p>

NFPA Conference and Expo

It will be a scorcher in Vegas this week--temperatures are expected to soar past 100 degrees--but the heat is no match for the sizzling events at NFPA's Conference & Expo, which is in full swing. We'll keep you posted on anything sprinkler related as they happen.

If you happen to be here this week, swing by the NFPA booth during Expo hours. Regional sprinkler specialist Jeff Hudson and others will be there to highlight NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and answer any questions you may have. Come say hello, and receive a few freebies while at the booth. For more information on the event, visit NFPA's Conference and Expo page.

Expo Hours
Monday, June 9: 3:30-7:30 p.m. PST
Tuesday, June 10: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. PST
Wednesday, June 11: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. PST

Becki WhiteBecki White with the Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Fire Department, provided some pointed comments to homeowners and potential homebuyers in a recent op-ed for Fire Engineering. Her thought-provoking argument ties home fire sprinklers to carbuyer's options--leather interior, heated seats, and others--and the safety features not up for discussion.

"There are many features we expect to be included, like seat belts, air bags, crumple zones," stated White. "They aren't priced out as amenities. If the salesperson asked you to choose between air bags and heated, leather seats, you'd be outraged as a consumer. How dare he?"

That same outrage, added White, should occur when looking at a spec sheet for a new home. "Granite countertops, larger "soaker" bathtubs, and fire sprinkler systems might be on the list. Wait--a safety feature is listed as an extra expense? The information is delivered in a way that makes it necessary for homebuilders to make a financial decision between installing granite countertops or including a sprinkler system."

White doesn't blame would-be and existing homeowners for this reality. She's aware that most of them aren't told that newer homes include designs and construction materials that can intensify fire spread. Nor might they be aware of the myths that seem to occumpany the issue of home fire sprinkler installation.

Read White's piece and let us know what you think of her stance. 

Jody Guida contacted her son the minute she saw smoke billowing from his housing complex in Pennsylvania. The fire, burning in a neighboring unit, could have created havoc for all residents had a sprinkler system not been installed in the residence, which likely kept the fire at bay. 


According to the +Pocono Record, +sprinklers were activated during a cooking fire. (Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, per NFPA.) Firefighters finished the job with extinguishers, but sprinklers likely saved the home and others from destruction.

Following the incident, Guida praised the system that prevented the fire from spreading to her son's home. "Thank God for sprinklers."


Interested in additional sprinkler saves? Read NFPA&#39;s latest "Sprinkler Successes in One- and Two-Family Homes" report. Conversely, watch this dramatic video by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition on how quickly fire can spread in a home:




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One of the best ways to educate elected and building officials about home fire sprinklers is to conduct installations with help from charitable organizations. This type of event can be useful during summer and early fall (peak construction season) and can become a major educational opportunity. The Northern Illinois Sprinkler Advisory Board has worked with fire and building officials to conduct more than 45 open house events in the last decade. You can do it, too, at little or no cost.

It is important to first consider who could most benefit from the lifesaving benefits of a sprinkler system. Perhaps you would like to protect an individual with a disability, a burn survivor, group home organization, an injured veteran, or a firefighter who is an advocate of fire sprinklers.    


Next, choose a qualified fire sprinkler designer who can develop a plan in accordance with NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.+ Then, secure a qualified, certified, and/or licensed contractor. There might even be a union training center or an Association of Fire Sprinkler Contractor that can take on this project pro bono or as a school assignment.

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When the design is complete, reach out to suppliers and manufacturers to obtain the needed materials:  copper, steel, piping, elbows, fittings, quick-response fire sprinklers, valves, meters, and backflows (if needed).  

Submit the plans to the authority having jurisdiction and make a personal visit to let them know that this is a charity job. Ask that permit and plan review fees be waived if the town or community participates as a partner. Install and test the system.

Before the walls go up, schedule an open house for local officials. It makes for a more interesting event if questions can be directly asked to the installers. Signs can be made to describe every component as people take the tour. These events are also a great media opportunity.


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Attendees get the opportunity to see how the fire sprinkler installation process fits into the overall home construction schedule, and why fire sprinklers are not placed in all locations. Moreover, they will learn about the ease of annual homeowner verification of system operation as well as obtain information on water tap size, system demand, water meter involvement, backflow function, and possibly the operation of the inspector test and alarm bells and horns, if that option is chosen.

Best of all: one of your more vulnerable residents will now live in a sprinkler-protected home with more peace of mind and lower fire insurance costs.

This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. This blog regularly feature's Lia's perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere. - See more at:


This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. The blog regularly features Lia&#39;s perspectives on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Making the connection between home fire sprinklers and acquired structure training

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Introducing Tom Lia, contributing blogger for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Sprinkler NewsAn interesting email from a colleague recently landed in my inbox. I clicked on the link embedded in the body and was taken to a this-day-in-history page that highlighted a sprinkler save from 1939. A fire had apparently activated a sprinkler system at a Sears & Roebuck. The fire didn't amount to much, stated the report, but caused water damage.

Granted, this incident doesn't involve a house fire, but the story--now more than 75 years old--reminded me of recent news reports where the successes of a sprinkler save are sometimes downplayed in lieu of other details. What about the lives that were potentially saved? What about how sprinklers significantly reduce the amount of water gushing from a firefighter's hose during a fire? What about how quickly these systems operate during a fire and can prevent flashover?

Has the media become a hindrance to sprinkler advocacy efforts? Is the full story being reported? Perhaps media outlets are unaware of all of the facts.

Here's an example of a story where a reporter had done her homework. News station AM 1360 KUIK in Oregon highlighted details from the scene of a recent fire: its cause, the damage, the need for firefighters to fill a 3,000-gallon water tender with a hydrant four miles from the site. There were no victims.

What was more attention-grabbing than these bits was the story's final paragraph: "The house was not equipped with working home fire sprinklers, which could have prevented the fire from heavily damaging the house. Fire sprinklers are especially important in rural homes because it takes longer for firefighters to respond to incidents in remote areas. This is why the Cornelius Fire Department highly suggests home fire sprinklers be installed in any new homes being built, whether inside or outside the city limits."

What are your thoughts on the media's portrayal of residential sprinklers? What can be done to make sure sprinkler successes get the proper press? Click on the comment box and add your thoughts. We'd love to read them.

TennesseeAs previously reported on this blog, legislators in the town of La Vergne, Tennessee, took crucial steps to mandate sprinkler installations in new homes. A final decision on the matter in May was cause for celebration.

Through a 4-1 vote by the city's Board of Mayor and Alderman, La Vergne joins other Tennessee towns with home fire sprinkler requirements on the books. La Vergne Mayor Senna Mosley lauded the vote to The Daily Journal. "Coming from a firefighter family, I understand what these guys and girls have to go through in having to fight fire and having to pull out bodies of burnt children," she said. "They have seen firsthand what sprinklers can do. I've seen roofs fall on my father as a child."

The local homebuilders association balked at the ruling, arguing that the mandate would halt construction in the town of 33,000 residents. One alderman, Tom Broeker, countered this argument by telling The Daily Journal that studies confirm that sprinklers won't negatively impact housing construction and will result in lower insurance costs.

"If it saves one person, it's worth it," added Mosley. "I'm very proud of this board and the ones who voted for it."

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