Firefighters Voice Opposition to Virginia Housing Board’s Vote Against Sprinklers

Blog Post created by lcapland Employee on Sep 26, 2019

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.