Debate Over Residential Fire Sprinklers Rages On

Reprinted from Fox59 (link)

INDIANAPOLIS — One picture the Gordon’s still have burning in their memory is how quickly the fire moved through their house.

“The fire moved so fast,” said Geanne Gordon. “And we watched the fire move from the screened in porch into the kitchen. Then the front dining room window blew out.”


“So immediately you knew it didn’t take long to just say this is gone,” said Bob Gordon.
But now as the Gordon’s rebuild some people believe residential fire sprinklers should be a required part of their new home.

As a former chief deputy with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Mark Riffey believes in residential fire sprinklers.

“These sprinklers have an activation time similar to that of a smoke detector,” said Riffey. “They operate immediately when the fire happens.”

“These are designed to prevent what we call flash over. These sprinklers are designed to provide you time to get up in the event of a fire and get out.”

Now Riffey is the Vice President of Ryan Fire Protection and installs home sprinkler systems. He’s also lobbying to make sprinklers mandatory in new home construction in Indiana.

“It’s the difference between surviving in a fire and perishing in one,” Riffey said. But, Riffey has a battle on his hands. Builders don’t want to be forced to put in sprinkler systems.

Rick Wajda is the CEO of the Indiana Builders Association. He’s lobbying against mandatory residential sprinklers in new home construction.

“We are not opposed to fire sprinklers in homes,” said Wajda. “We are opposed to them being mandated in a minimum statewide building code.”

Wajda says new homes with the current building codes and fire walls are safer than ever.

“For example smoke detectors are hard wired and interconnected in new homes built in the State of Indiana,” Wajda said.

He says a big reason Indiana home builders are against mandatory fire sprinkler installation is because of the cost.

“We have seen from estimates out in the field that adding a fire sparkler system to a single family residence would cost Hoosier families anywhere between from $6000 to $13,000 per house,” Wajda said. “That is a price that would price out thousands of Hoosiers across the state from affording a new home.”

But Riffey says you can’t put a cost on safety and believes the technology is ready now to make homes safer.

Indianapolis resident Tony Knoble put fire sprinklers in his home when remodeled. “They’re pretty nondescript,” said Knoble. “They blend in real nice.” Knoble says it buys him piece of mind.

“The goal of those is to contain the fire and let you get out so you know it’s just one more added layer of safety and security,” Knoble said.

The Gordon’s don’t know if fire sprinklers would have made a difference for them.

“In terms of the sprinklers slowing the fire and saving lives that could be a benefit,” Bob said. “If anyone is thinking it will diminish loss I’m not certain.”

But, the Gordon’s say their new house will have three times as many smoke alarms.

Right now it looks like this debate will rage on. Senate Bill 512 that would address making residential fire sprinklers mandatory in new home construction in Indiana probably won’t get a hearing this year.

Riffey says he’ll be lobbying the legislature again next year and year after to one day make it a reality.

Right now only California and Maryland have adopted the new standards.

-Forwarded by Ron Hanson

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