Wisconsin officials have proposed changes in state regulations that would reduce requirements for fire sprinklers in new homes, college dorms, hotels, and other buildings. Among the proposals is one that would require sprinklers in buildings with 20 or more units. Current regulations require sprinklers in buildings with three or more units.
State firefighters and buildings inspectors say the proposed changes simply don’t make sense. During a public hearing earlier this week, Robert Ugaste, Wauwatosa fire chief and president of the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association, was adamant that fire sprinklers are a proven method for combating home fires. He expressed confusion as to why officials would want to remove the regulations. According to a recent news story, the general consensus among other Wisconsin fire chiefs is that reducing building costs by sacrificing safety is the wrong move. Eau Claire Fire Chief Chris Bell told the Leader-Telegram that such changes would hamper efforts to reduce home fires.
Primary supporters for the proposed changes believe requiring fire sprinklers is a financial burden for homeowners. The state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services, who sponsored the public hearing, says the current regulations are too expensive for both builders and homebuyers. The Wisconsin Builders Association believes the proposed changes would strike the appropriate balance between safety and affordability. However, research on the cost of home sprinklers conducted by NFPA shows that fire sprinklers can be a cost-effective addition to new homes.
Other public hearings might occur on the proposed changes, which could eventually reach the state legislature for a vote. In the meantime, the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition will continue educating the public on the necessity of fire sprinklers in all new homes.