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The American fire service is celebrating a tremendous advancement with the recent success of code proposal RB 64 at the ICC hearings on the residential sparkler issue. Clearly there is much to celebrate, but for this tremendous vote to be meaningful it's going to require that we all stay focused and remain dedicated to this lifesaving initiative. There are many firefighters who spent hundreds of hours to get us to this point. Let's not allow their work go in vain. Let's continue to push this issue locally, because locally is where the war will be won.

A great resource produced by the NFPA on home fire sprinkler cost assessments can be found on the NFPA website at Now that the ICC is going to be putting residential sprinklers in the code for one- and two-family homes, every firefighter must orient himself to what the real costs are for installation. Every firefighter must be able to articulate the tremendous benefits not only in firefighter safety, but more importantly in public safety. This report by the Newport partners is a comprehensive look at the factors that influence the cost of residential sprinklers. Also reviewed were a wide range of insurance premiums and discounts that are going to be available to those folks who put residential sprinklers into their communities new construction private residences.

The report looked at homes in many different communities and various living spaces ranging from around 2000 ft.² of to as much as 6000 ft.² The cost per square foot of insulation of residential sprinkler systems ranged from a high of around $3.40 to a low of around $1.00 dollar per square foot. Combine the relatively low cost of installation with the insurance benefits and this is an easy sell.

We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the firefighters who have worked so hard to make this dream a reality. Special thanks has to be extended to the IRC fire sprinkler coalition, led by chief Ronnie Coleman. Over the last 18 months this group has worked tirelessly to make this happen. For more information on the IRC fire sprinkler coalition, go to

posted by Bobby Halton
9/22/2008 06:54:00 PM

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Blogger Chief Mark Finocchio said...


You're absolutely right, the battle is won. In order for true acceptance to occur, firefighters themselves will have to "pound the ground" to get this issue in the eyes of governing bodies across the US. I can guarantee one thing, HBA's nationwide will be on every code hearing from now till eternity to get this requirement amended out. It will be up to us to lift the the mantle of awareness to the eyes of every city council member, fire board member, county judge or commissioner and state legislator. Then and only then, will we win the war.

Chief Mark Finocchio
Pleasant Hill Fire Protection District
Pleasant Hill, Missouri

Wed Sep 24, 01:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger D. Bain said...

So how do you propose the required inspections be done on these "residential sprinklers systems"? They will be installed in PRIVATE homes. How will you gain access to these systems to enforce the required inspections? If the homeowner refuses access and the system goes uninspected and unmaintained what good does installing such a system do in the first place? Gaining acess to a public place to inspect sprinkler systems is one thing. It is done under the guise of public safety and commerce which can pass the "legal test" of need. Gaining access to a PRIVATE home is a whole different story. It poses a serious constitional challenge. Placing liability on the homeowner for not allowing inspection will also pose a legal challenge as well, one which will not allow the "enforcing agency" off the hook in the event of failure. Besides all that, this will be a bitter pill for the tax paying public to swallow! Historically the public views the fire service in a favorable light.When we show up people are glad to see us, (unlike our bretheren in blue who need a warrant to breach the threshold of a private home). Turning us into "fire cops" will change our image and public support base. In my state, in the last 10 years, more people died in vehicle fires than private residential fires. Almost 5 times more! The data just isnt there. (I know I was the one who tracked it) . In 2 counties in this state these ordinances have been legally challenged and shot down after they were passed. Ironically the opposition used the fire services own data to do it and a major player was the fire service's inability to enforce inspection and maintainence of the systems their newly adopted code required. The intention is grand, but the approach is flawed. I fear the result of this "war" will be that everyone loses. There are better ways to accomplish this goal.

Wed Sep 24, 08:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger RHEIMER said...

Congrats, this is a major stepping stone for North America, hopefully Canada follows suit.

Thu Sep 25, 06:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Chad Lawry said...

Regarding the right to inspect…
In the City of Vancouver Washington we have no right of entry to occupied single family dwellings unless we have evidence of criminal activity and can obtain a warrant.
Sorry for the long winded explanation to follow.
• Dwellings constructed under the International Residential Code (IRC) are not classified as “IBC group R-3”; rather, as stated in IRC section R101.2 SCOPE they are classified as “one- and two-family dwellings and townhomes not more than 3 stories in height”.
• The IFC (and IBC) defines group R occupancies on page 22 with “when not regulated by the International Residential Code” The 2006 edition of the IFC section 102 APPLICABILITY references the building code as the IBC.
• IRC Appendix P SPRINKLERING states, “An approved automatic fire sprinkler system shall be installed in new one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses in accordance with section 903.3.1 of the International Building Code.” These are adoptable requirements for the installation only, not the ongoing inspection and maintenance.
• NFPA 25 is not referenced as an applicable standard in Appendix IX of the IRC. Therefore the authority to apply NFPA 25 for ongoing confidence testing of SFR 13-D isn’t provided for.
This indicates that structures constructed under the residential building code are not subject to the regulatory authority of the fire code (unless of course they are conducting an illegal IFC regulated activity in which case we work with the City’s Code Enforcement Division and Police Department to bring that activity to an end).

If a 13-D system is installed so that the only way to turn off the water to the sprinkler is to turn off the water to the house at the meter, this is reasonable assurance that the sprinklers will remain active while the building is occupied. By tying the system to a remote toilet, it keeps the water in the 13-D system moving and can address the water purveyors’ concerns about water quality and check valves.
Our water purveyor does not charge increased system development charges (SDCs) when the increased meter size is required solely to accommodate fire sprinklers on a residential system.
I hope that helps,
Chad Lawry
Deputy Fire Marshal
Vancouver Fire Department
[email protected]

Thu Sep 25, 11:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger ny fireman said...

How about pushing for a ban on leightweight construction instead of wasting OUR time with this. As a fireman I really could care less about sprinkler installation in pd's which as someone already suggested will pose enforcement and maintenance issues. Not to mention--i want the govt. to stay the heck out of my house. I can only wonder what influence contractors and trade unions have on pushing for this legislation. Does it really help US? Why not push for bans on poor construction/lightweight trusses, laminated wood I beams and basicly all buildings that seem to be put together with sticks and glue. This is what is going to be killing US this next century. Oh but they are protected by sprinklers you might say. I guess arsonists don't know how to disable them. I guess everyone properly maintains said systems, and of course no one ever stacks stock or furniture within 18" of them---ever. I guess no one stands to gain from what I am saying accept us dumb fireman. WAKE UP IAFF and the fire service!!!

Fri Sep 26, 03:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger George said...


The intent is really on the line, but as D. Bain and Chad Lawry have commented, the constitutional rights to privacy are far and above the public safety benefits that residential sprinklers would produce. It's sad but true. Residential sprinklers would surely reduce civilian deaths AND firefighter casualties.

Possibly the only true solution to the residential fire problem is the use of noncombustible building materials. I have commented on this fact many, many times. The continued use of wood and wood derivities as the principal components of homes and small business premisis will continue to be the major contibutor to these fires. Look at the statistics and compare the number of major destructive fires an all brick and concrete buildings compared with fires in wood buildings. I think the results would speak for themselves.

I'm not knocking sprinklers in any way. They are a proven means for reducing life and property losses.
If ways can be found to be able to legally inspect and supervise the systems, then, as Chief Finocchio says, the battle will be won.

Sat Sep 27, 11:20:00 AM EDT  

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