A bill authored by Minnesota Senator Rich Draheim aimed at "creating more affordable housing" would weaken a current state requirement for residential fire sprinklers.
The bill, which recently passed a Senate vote, would exempt two-unit townhomes from requiring fire sprinklers. "We have to start looking at ways to reduce construction costs so it’s easier for people to buy a home in Minnesota," Draheim said in a statement appearing on the Minnesota State Republican Caucus website.
However, safety advocates argue those cost-cutting measures should not be implemented at the expense of placing residents' lives at greater risk of fire death and injury. While downplaying the necessity of fire sprinklers in a recent news story, Draheim also stated that other home safety measures--hardwired smoke alarms and double fire walls--might be addressed in future bills.
"If you can't, under good conditions, blindfold yourself and get out of your house at 2:30 in the morning, and get your family out in less than 3 minutes, you're never going to do it with smoke and fire," said burn survivor and fire sprinkler advocate Rob Feeney, who spoke to more than 240 firefighters at a recent event in Minnesota.
State data also underscores the necessity of maintaining--and bolstering--any law requiring residential sprinklers. Data from the State Fire Marshal's Office highlighted by a local ABC affiliate indicates that there have been more than 900 "sprinkler saves" in the state between 2004 and 2016. Furthermore, sprinklers in new dwellings could have an impact in reducing the state's nearly 50 fire deaths each year.
Draheim's bill now heads to the desk of Governor Mark Dayton, who has vetoed anti-sprinkler bills in the past.