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George Esbensen
George Esbensen, chief of the Eden Prairie (MN) Fire Department, tells CBS Minnesota that the combination of working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers saves lives.

Minnesota lawmakers have passed new requirements for fire sprinklers in new homes larger than 4,500 square feet, effective Janaury 24, 2015.

“This is a great move to keep our residents safer in single-family home construction,” George Esbensen, chief of the Eden Prairie Fire Department, and legislative chair of the Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association told CBS Minnesota

Chief Esbensen says houses today are built with lighter materials and furnished with more synthetics than older homes. “It burns literally like gasoline or petroleum when it gets under fire,” he told CBS Minnesota.

Another sprinkler supporter is Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who has twice vetoed anti-sprinkler legislation and was recently vocal about a bonding bill that included a repeal of the new legislation.

A representative of the local builders association tells CBS Minnesota that the requirements are "unecessary".

“We are all for safety, but we know that this really not going to save lives and it’s going to cost people $9,000 to $20,000 a home, " said Builders Association of the Twin Cities executive director David Siegel.

According to a Fire Protection Research Foundation national study in 2013, the average cost per sprinklered square foot is $1.35. That would put the cost of sprinklering a 4,500 square foot home at $6,075.


Related: Ken Peterson and Scott McLellan of Minnesota's Department of Labor and Industry talk about their push to expand residential sprinkler use in the state. (NFPA Journal®, January/February 2014)

House fire
A fire large enough to destroy an Idaho home and threaten surrounding houses prompted a battalion chief to stress the importance of home fire sprinklers.

According to a story in the Idaho Press-Tribune, the recent fire occurred while the homeowner was visiting a neighbor and the homeowner's daughter was sleeping inside the structure. Luckily, another neighbor noticed the fire and awoke the woman. As the smoke alarms sounded, both escaped the blaze safely. The house, however, was a complete loss.

"Our biggest success was keeping the fire off the neighbor's house," Battalion Chief Tim Scott told the newspaper. "Getting hose lines in between the two houses, we were able to keep it from spreading to another house."

Scott was also quick to note that home fire sprinklers--which are required in the state's larger homes, according to the paper--could have prevented the fire from growing to catastrophic proportions. "We would have been looking at just another garage fire," he said. "This is a very good example of why, with new construction, the investment in home fire sprinklers is really something to look into."

Read how sprinklers averted a somewhat similar house fire by reading a recent blog post about the incident.

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