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2018

Photo: GoFundMe

A devastating fire in Middletown, New Jersey, took the lives of an 18-year-old girl and her pet dog. Aubree Larusso, recent graduate of Middletown North High School, was trapped in her bedroom when the fire started. Also home during the fire were her mother, brother, and a family friend, but all escaped unharmed, according to the Middletown Patch.

"Her bedroom was off of the living room area, and the fire originated in or near the living room. The fire blocked her access to leave the home," Chris Swendeman, a spokesman for the local county prosecutor, told the Patch. The cause of the fire was deemed accidental.

Aubree’s cousin, Casey Kwiatkowski,  created a GoFundMe page for the LaRusso’s recovery efforts. The town’s high school has also been offering counseling for those grieving. Friend and neighbor Bethany DePalo told NFPA, “It’s crazy to think she’s gone. I feel like everyone in the town is affected by her passing. Word spread very quickly, and in a way this unbelievable tragedy is actually bringing people closer together.”

Another New Jersey fire recently made headlines this month when five children from Union City were killed in a residential fire. New Jersey legislators have introduced home fire sprinkler bills this year in an attempt to prevent these disasters from happening in the future. For more information on additional sprinkler-related efforts in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition page.    

While constantly promoting the aesthetics of homes with open-concept designs, popular home improvement shows rarely (if ever) discuss its fire concerns. We underscore this issue in the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. Watch a news clip underscoring how fire sprinklers mitigate the fire risks in these settings.

 

The newsletter also features stories on:

 

  • a New Jersey tragedy involving five children
  • our podcast series that is reaching new audiences via national recognition
  • an anti-sprinkler TV ad, and how advocates are fighting back

 

Take 30 seconds to become a better advocate for home fire sprinklers; sign up to receive our free, monthly newsletter today.

Aftershocks from a catastrophic fire in San Francisco's Mission Hill neighborhood are still felt throughout the city; some of the nearly 60 residents are still displaced following the 2015 fire that occurred in a mixed-use building. The fire killed one resident and injured six others. According to reports, the unsprinklered building had repeated safety violations. And one lawmaker is telling repeat offenders with similar violations that enough is enough. 

 

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen has introduced legislation requiring landlords with buildings constantly flagged with safety violations to upgrade or install fire sprinkler and alarm systems. California's new homes currently require fire sprinklers. The new law would give the city's Department of Building Inspection and Fire Department the authority to order a building owner in an existing, unsprinklered residence with at least two fire safety violations to make these upgrades. Moreover, the upgrade costs cannot be passed on to the tenants, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. 

 

The news outlet also reports that between 2004 and 2016, the city experienced more than 250 residential fires that were two alarms or more. This legislation is "another tool for the city to use so tenants have a level of safety," Tommi Avicolli Mecca with the city's Housing Rights Committee told the Chronicle. “There is a problem with buildings that have violations that could lead to fires, and sometimes they go years without being abated. There’s got to be a way that we can protect people when you’ve got these bad actors."

The Massachusetts Legislature is debating if local communities can require national fire safety measures in new home construction, particularly, requirements for home fire sprinklers. Currently, these communities don't have that option. The bill, H2481, is intended to allow local communities to create their own fire sprinkler requirements, thereby protecting Massachusetts families and firefighters. 

 

The Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition is urging legislators to act on this bill, which is currently in committee. Their reason is clear; there were more than 57,000 fires in one- and two-family homes in the last decade. Moreover, these fires caused more than 200 deaths and close to $830 million in property damage. 

 

There is broad-based support for this measure; organizations supporting the bill include the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, the Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. The coalition is urging Massachusetts residents and safety advocates to contact Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, 617-722-2990, and ask him to support H2481. Please take this important step for a bill that would give communities the option to enact their own home fire sprinkler requirements. 

Photo: GoFundMe

 

The town of Union City, New Jersey, is in mourning following a residential fire on July 13 that claimed the lives of five children. Ranging in age from 2 to 13, the children were from the same family and were sleeping when the fire started, according to news reports. Adults and firefighters were also injured in the five-alarm blaze.


According to a story on NJ.com, the cause appears to be from a faulty, electrical outlet, though the investigation is ongoing. (Please follow NFPA’s tips on electrical safety in the home.) The building's owner has been cited with code violations, including failure to maintain smoke alarms and failure to "comply or maintain a fire escape," states another story on NJ.com. 

 

Union City’s mayor’s office has established a victim's fund via a GoFundMe page. “NFPA sends its heartfelt condolences to the family, the victims, and to the entire Union City community,” says NFPA President Jim Pauley. “This incident is a heartbreaking reminder of the devastating and frequent toll of today’s home fires. As far as our country has come in reducing losses associated with fire, home fires remain a major problem that we can no longer ignore.”


NFPA’s research underscores this problem; home fires, on average, kill seven people each day and injure 13,000 annually. Equally alarming is the fact that if there is a reported fire in your home today, you are more likely to die in that fire than one nearly 40 years ago. Life-saving technologies reduce the risk of death or injury from home fires, but aren’t always embraced by state decision makers. For instance, the home fire death rate in homes with hardwired smoke alarms and fire sprinklers is 90 percent lower than homes without them, per NFPA. In New Jersey, legislative bills requiring sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes have made it to then Governor Chris Christie’s desk twice, which he vetoed both times. The state’s Assembly and Senate have once again introduced similar sprinkler bills this year.


“NFPA joins local safety advocates in supporting any legislation in New Jersey that bolsters fire sprinkler protection, especially in new homes,” says Pauley. “Preventing future generations from experiencing a tragedy similar to what occurred in Union City is why NFPA is fully committed to fire sprinkler requirements.”

New York TV stations are airing an ad downplaying the necessity of fire sprinkler requirements, but safety advocates are fighting back. 

 

A bill introduced in Albany County would require fire sprinklers in its new homes. According to a recent news story, if passed, Albany County would be New York's first county to require this technology. Contractors who don't install fire sprinklers in new homes could face a fine of $250 a day if this measure is passed. The bill is currently in committee, but will be debated during a public meeting in August. 

 

Opposing local requirements for this life-saving bill is the New York State Association of Realtors, which have funded a TV ad downplaying the necessity of fire sprinklers. "This should remain a consumer choice, not a mandate,” Susan Summers, president of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, told a local news station. Advocates have long argued that fire sprinklers are a U.S. model building code requirement. When jurisdictions go through building code updates, not adopting the full version of the code and cherry-picking what to include and not include from the code is a dangerous act. If a new home is lacking fire sprinklers, it is not adhering to model building code requirements and should be considered substandard. 

 

As he's done many times this year already in front of TV cameras, Jerry DeLuca with the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs discussed the necessity of sprinklers during the news broadcast. (Check out NYSAFC's new sprinkler PSA.) He conduced a brief show-and-tell using an actual sprinkler. 

 


Please bookmark our blog and check it often for updates to this story. If you'd like to snag your own fire sprinkler prop for educational and media-related purposes, please request one from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Do you live somewhere that prohibits home fire sprinkler requirements statewide or locally? Do you feel like your hands are tied by laws that actually prohibit a safety feature known to save lives? While these laws may be in place throughout the U.S., they don't ban you from giving your community doses of fire sprinkler education. Or even calling out laws that could impact their safety. 

 

For example, Georgia safety advocates attracted the media during a side-by-side fire demonstration last month. In a video that appears to be from the same event, State Fire Marshal Dwayne Garriss hits all the key points in front of news cameras. (Download our media talking points guide to make sure you are, too.)

 

"Sprinkler technology...can save lives, save firefighters' lives, can slow down response emergencies," he said. "There is a national code that says you are to have [sprinklers] installed [in new homes]. The biggest problem we have is that a legislative body here has basically said that the state cannot adopt a code that mandates that into a one- and two-family dwelling. In that case, we're just trying to educate people on the benefits of fire sprinklers."

 

Via NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website, we offer an array of ways to take action even if your state prohibits fire sprinkler requirements. Please do what you can to support home fire sprinklers. 

Here's a unique fire sprinkler save from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Firefighters there were called to an early-morning, residential fire. Residents told them the fire was inside a vacant apartment. Upon entering the unit, they noticed that the fire sprinkler activation had kept the fire tenable. To fully extinguish the fire, firefighters simply stomped it out with their boots, according to the Times Free Press. There were no reported injuries or deaths from the fire. 

 

The fire sprinklers did what they were intended to do. According to NFPA's research on fire sprinkler activation:

 

  • when sprinklers were present during a fire, the fire was kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time.
  • Roughly 85 percent of the time, just one sprinkler operates during a fire.

 


Has your fire department responded to any fire sprinkler activations? Have you seen any in the news? If so, please send these "saves" to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative team so we can highlight them.

Photo: Twitter 

 

Proving fire can happen anytime and impact anyone, a Maryland couple and their family fled their home during a fire  the morning of the couple's wedding. 

 

According to news reports, the fire began around 2:30 a.m. at the bride-to-be's family home in Maryland. Seventeen family members and wedding party guests were home when the fire started. “I woke up, I woke my wife, and I’m like, something is burning,” one of the wedding guests told a Washington, D.C., ABC news station. “In five minutes, the whole thing was like in flames. Five minutes, the whole thing.”

 

The groom, Matthew Denakis, says he heard his mother-in-law screaming about the fire. Fortunately, everyone escaped safely and nobody was hurt, but the fire caused about $400,000 in damage to the home. Smoking materials may have been the culprit, according to authorities. 

 

Firefighters were able to collect Denakis' Army uniform and shoes for the wedding. The wedding dress was safe since Coral, the bride, had stored it in Denakis' car the night before the fire. Rather than dwell on the negative, the couple decided to continue with the ceremony as planned. "My wife was gorgeous and breathtaking, and my uniform was cleaned," Denakis told the news station. "Decorations that were saved were amazing. It was a nice ending to a rather horrendous beginning."

 

Every home fire has a story. Hear ours by visiting the "survivor stories" page on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

Set to vote on a requirement to sprinkler its new homes, the Palatine, Illinois, Village Council decided to postpone the vote after local builders argued they "were given little advance warning about the vote" and could "improve fire safety [in new homes] using cheaper methods," according to a recent news story.

 

The Illinois village had considered a sprinkler ordinance in 2011, but it was rejected following concerns that it would deter new construction projects. Now that neighboring towns have had success in adopting their own fire sprinkler requirements, the vote is back on the table, reports the news story. 

 

Local homebuilders were quick to question Palatine's proposal, stating fire sprinkler requirements would spike home prices, drive up insurance costs, and ignore more affordable--and equally effective--fire prevention methods. However, extensive research has proven the affordability of fire sprinkler installation, particularly in communities that have embraced fire sprinkler ordinances. Moreover, no other technology responds to and helps extinguish a fire as rapidly as fire sprinklers. "[With] sprinklers, you can afford people opportunities to get out," local Fire Marshal Jay Atherton told the publication. He also informed the council that fire sprinkler installations lead to insurance discounts.

 

The council tabled the vote until August so the local homebuilders can submit their input. However, a councilman offered a bit of good news to safety advocates. "I don't want to [be] ambiguous at all--sprinklers are going to be part of our code," said Councilman Scott Lamerand, according to the news story. "Certainly in townhomes and maybe some portion of single-family homes."

Check out a new, 30-second public service announcement created by the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (a member of the New York Fire Sprinkler Initiative). It features a real estate agent or builder chatting with a couple about a new home's fire safety options. He's educated on fire spread, and makes a pretty convincing push for fire sprinkler protection.

 

 

These conversations don't have to be fictitious; help spread the good word on home fire sprinklers by linking the real estate and homebuilding industry with free resources from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. 

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