Delivering a blow to Minnesota's fire safety advocates, the state's Court of Appeals recently overturned a ruling by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to sprinkler all new, one- and two-family homes greater than 4,500 square feet.
Sued by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, the department saw the sprinkler requirement as a necessity, telling NFPA in 2014 that the the cost of installing sprinklers isn't significant enough to discourage someone from purchasing a home, particularly when weighing the cost against the potential threat to life and property.
The court didn't agree. "While we can appreciate [the department's] concern with balancing the life-safety benefits of sprinkler systems with increased installation costs, the record simply does not contain a reasoned explanation as to how [the department] determined that an indefinite exception for all one-family dwellings under 4,500 square feet strikes that balance," stated the ruling, which was highlighted in Minnesota media outlets. (The department placed installation costs at $1.51 per sprinklered square foot, pennies above the national average of $1.35.)
This balancing act probably means little to the family of a father and his two boys, age two and five, who died in a South St. Paul home fire a day after the court's decision. Per the Star Tribune, the blaze was the second, multiple-fatality home fire this month in the Twin Cities metro area.
Fighting back tears, Chanry Soeng discussed the emotional distress of losing her husband and children. She arrived at her home an hour after the fire. “I didn’t see my children. I asked police, I want to see my children and they say, ‘No,’ ” Soeng said.