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The activation of a sprinkler extinguished a fire and saved about 800 people in a Tysons, Virginia apartment building on September 22, according to a recent local news report. Damages were estimated to be $650.

 

In another fire that took place in the state one week prior resulted in a different outcome: a mother, father, and 10-year-old son lost their lives in a fire at their home in Virginia’s Buckingham County.

 

Photo Credit: Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition

 

The same day as the tragic fire, the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development rejected a proposal to implement the model code provision making sprinklers mandatory in new townhomes and single-family homes, reported WAMU. The same article reported that Home Builders Association of Virginia celebrated the vote, “saying that requiring sprinklers would only throw another obstacle in the way of the new housing construction that is needed to help close what officials say is a 75,000-home gap between what’s currently expected to be built across the region and what’s actually needed to keep pace with estimated job growth.”

 

In social media posts following the vote, the home builders association said that the requirement for sprinklers in new single-family homes and townhouses could mean an increase of $15,000 and $25,000 in construction costs.

 

The board’s decision - and these social media posts from the Association - drew public outcry from members of the fire service from across the country.

 

Chief Keith Johnson of the Loudon County Combined Fire-Rescue System, who serves on the Board of Housing and Community Development representing the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association supporting the proposal, and Fairfax County Fire Chief John S. Butler vocalized their dissatisfaction and vocalized that the decision is a huge safety concern.

 

Photo Credit: Twitter

 

Keith Brower, a retired Loudon County, VA fire chief, tweeted that the average cost of home fire sprinklers is “no where near this quote,” and put the cost at $1.61 per square foot in the state. A report commissioned by the Fire Protection Research Foundation places the average national cost at $1.35 per sprinklered square foot or about one percent of the total construction cost.

 

As the backlash grew, the Home Builders Association deleted their posts about the decision.

Delaware Fire Coalition Chair Paul Eichler was recently interviewed on Delmarva Life, a local TV program. As part of the conversation, the Coalition Chair provided education about home fire sprinklers and dispelled some of the common myths about them. Among the misconceptions discussed, he debunked the myth that home fire sprinklers leak "all over the place" and that the water they use will create more damage than a fire. Watch the full interview here:

 

 

Also on display during the interview was the sprinkler prop kit, a free tool that is available from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Nice job Paul Eichler!

The Park Ridge Fire Department responded to an alarm at the Park Ridge Pointe community in Park Ridge, Illinois on September 6. After entering, crews discovered a fire had started in a bathroom in one of the condo units. 

 

“The fire sprinkler system had activated (only one sprinkler head) and had prevented the fire from spreading throughout the structure,” Park Ridge Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen said in a press release, “Most importantly, no residents or fire personnel were injured.” 

 

Chief Sorensen also cited how sprinklers can help reduce the resources needed to respond to a fire. “While fire sprinklers are designed with life safety in mind, they typically use a fraction of the water that fire hoses do to contain a fire,” Sorensen said in the release.

 

Furthermore, “It wasn’t a large response by us because we didn’t need it, ” Sorensen was quoted as saying in a Chicago Tribune article about the incident.

 

The city of Park Ridge has required fire sprinklers in all new construction, including single-family homes, since 2001.

 

In the case of this particular fire, it is believed to have originated in the bathroom ceiling fan.

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