Strong, public support for home fire sprinklers by Minnesota fire service officials and the state's governor has paid off. A mandatory provision to sprinkler all of the state's new homes larger than 4,500 square feet takes effect this month.
For years, sprinkler opponents have attempted to thwart such requirements through the Minnesota State Legislature, which passed bills in 2011 and 2012 prohibiting new sprinkler mandates in the state's building code. Governor Mark Dayton, however, vetoed both bills.
The state's Department of Labor and Industry has been looking to incorporate more stringent sprinkler provisions in the code, which already requires sprinklers in two-family dwellings and townhomes of a certain size. When interviewed by NFPA Journal in 2013, Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson addressed concerns posed by the state's homebuilding industry. "I’m not sure about their point asserting that newer homes are less prone to fires than older homes," he said. "I haven’t seen strong data on that. In terms of cost, the cost of sprinkler installation has come down. Costs are important and we don’t want to trivialize them. But in larger homes, I don’t think the cost [of installing sprinklers] is that significant to discourage someone from purchasing a home, particularly when you weigh that against the potential threat to life and property." According to the Department of Labor and Industry, the average cost for installation in Minnesota is $1.51 per square foot.
In a recent news story highlighting the new requirement, Eden Prairie Fire Chief George Esbensen cited an August 2014 house fire where sprinklers could have altered the outcome. Since nobody was in the home, 911 wasn't called. Firefighters finally arrived to the scene, at which point the home was fully engulfed in flames. "The sprinkler would have held that fire in check," said Esbensen.
The sprinkler requirement takes effect on January 24. For more information, download this fact sheet produced by the Department of Labor and Industry.