Local News

State Fire Chiefs Make Pitch for Home Sprinklers

Posted December 10, 2007 6:40 a.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2007 7:25 p.m. EST

— Fire chiefs from across North Carolina appealed to state regulators Monday to require sprinklers in new homes.

"We're trying to protect the citizens of North Carolina," said Assistant Wilmington Fire Chief Frank Blackley, who also serves as president of the state Fire Marshals Association. "It's going to reduce fire loss, potential firefighter injuries and civilian fatalities."

Forty-eight people die in house fires every year in North Carolina, authorities said.

Under the proposal suggested by the North Carolina Fire Chiefs Association, automatic fire sprinklers would be installed in new one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses. The exceptions to the rule would be buildings less than three stories high and buildings less than 3,600 square feet in area.

The cost to add sprinkler systems to new homes is about $2 to $3 per square foot, experts said, which is about the same as adding new carpeting.

The fire chiefs said sprinklers might have prevented the deaths of seven South Carolina college students who were killed in Oct. 28, 2007 at Ocean Isle Beach.

"We sprinkler our lawns, but we don't sprinkler our homes," Assistant Raleigh Fire Chief Tommie Styons said. "At the end of the day, when someone in your family or personal belongings are destroyed in a fire, it puts it in a different light."

Still, North Carolina Building Code Council Chairman Dan Tingen said he has concerns with the proposal.

"There's an attempt here to force those requirements into single-family, detached homes. There's been a resistance not only because of the cost on single-family housing, but also because you're impeding into people's private spaces."

The Building Code Council also was considering a proposal that would give local jurisdictions the ability to enforce even tougher sprinkler rules. Such regulations might be needed in large subdivisions with limited access, authorities said.