Firefighters gathered at the State Capitol to extinguish an attempt to prohibit the mandatory installation of sprinkler systems in new homes, reports The Star Tribune.
By next year, state building codes will require new homes larger than 4,500 square feet to be built with their own sprinkler systems.
Firefighters, noting that at least 21 Minnesotans have died this year in home fires, say the sprinkler requirement is needed and that smoke detectors aren’t always enough. St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler said that Nicole Ann Ritzer, 50, of Lakeland, was the latest to perish in a home fire. He said the home’s smoke alarm was going off when firefighters found her body.
“The firefighters here and the firefighters that have responded to this weekend’s tragedy have to bear the brunt of these times,” said Butler, flanked by more than two dozen firefighters. “We have yet to see a Realtor or a builder come in and offer their sympathies or say how safe their house was or how effective smoke alarms were at these tragedies.”
Advocates of the ban say that forced installation is unnecessary and expensive government overreach. They note that deaths from home fires have been dropping for more than 30 years. They say that none of the fires occurred in new homes outfitted with the interconnected smoke detectors mandated more than a decade ago.
“The big issue of saving people’s lives is having that early warning and a clear path to get out,” said Shawn Nelson, president of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. “Putting additional protection in our safest houses isn’t sound policy. It’s not where the problem exists.”
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