Following the death of two children from a recent residential fire in Lawrence, Mass., a coalition supported by every major fire service organization in Massachusetts is expressing its support for fire protection measures and disappointment at attempts to roll back these requirements.
Members of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition are taking the state’s Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) to task for the release of its white paper, “The Cost and Effectiveness for Health, Safety, and Security of Fire Alarm Systems and Fire Sprinkler Systems in 3 to 6 Unit Residential Buildings.” The coalition has deemed the document deeply flawed for its consideration to lessen sprinkler requirements without taking into consideration the life-safety benefits of sprinklers. According to NFPA, the risk of dying in a home fire is reduced by 80 percent when sprinklers are present.
High-profile fires this year in Massachusetts have dominated headlines, making the white paper’s consideration to reduce sprinkler requirements an alarming prospect to the coalition. The four-alarm Lawrence fire in October ripped through an apartment building, trapping and killing two boys in their bedroom. In March, two firefighters died battling a blaze that destroyed a Boston townhouse. Seven people died from a fire in a multi-family building in Lowell in July, representing the single deadliest fire in the state since 1994. None of the buildings were equipped with sprinklers as the structures were built before sprinkler requirements were included in Massachusetts codes.
NFPA representatives and other coalition members underscored these tragedies and disappointment with the white paper at a BBRS meeting in September. Understanding that the technology is available to prevent future tragedies from occurring, they stated that weakening sprinkler requirements based on a flawed report would be a misstep.
“It is disheartening to see the number of tragic fire deaths continue to rise in the Commonwealth,” Mary Regan, chair of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition and chief of the Westfield Fire Department, tells NFPA. “We have already surpassed the total number of fire fatalities in 2013. The elderly and young are at particular risk during a fire. Sprinklers can reduce these tragedies. We must continue to advocate for sprinklers in new construction and fight the BBRS from attempting to reduce fire protection by diminishing current fire codes.”
Visit the coalition's site to learn more about their efforts, and watch the following clip of Regan underscoring the coalition's concerns with the white paper: