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Florida Developer Cuts Deal With City On Fire Sprinklers

June 25th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By CHRISTIAN M. WADE – Tampa Tribune

ZEPHYRHILLS – The developer of a massive town home project could be exempted from the new municipal sprinkler law, under a tentative agreement reached with city officials.

Miami-based Lennar Homes LLC – developer of the 250-unit Eiland Park Townhomes – argues they should be grandfathered in under the new ordinance because the complex was approved long before the city council passed the law.

City Manager Steve Spina said negotiations between city officials and the company have resulted in a deal that will exempt the homebuilder from installing the fire safety devices.

Ultimately, the council, which meets at 6 this evening, has to sign off on the agreement.

Initially, city officials had opposed Lennar’s exemption request. They argued that the gated community going up off Eiland Boulevard is only partially constructed and most of the town homes there haven’t been permitted yet.

Those already permitted wouldn’t have to include sprinklers.

But Lennar’s lawyers poked holes in the new law, arguing that it doesn’t meet the statutory requirements for a local amendment to the state’s fire prevention codes.

In a written complaint, they also criticized the appeal system as lacking in due process.

“The procedure that the city has provided for us to challenge the validity of the ordinance is flawed because it is being heard by the same body that approved it,” the complaint stated.

Spina said he and other Zephyrhills officials were worried about the possibility of a legal challenge if council members rejected Lennar’s request to be grandfathered in.

“That was certainly a concern,” Spina said. “They Lennar are holding all the cards.”

Marshall Ames, a Lennar spokesman in Miami, declined to comment. Attorneys for the homebuilder are expected to attend tonight’s council meeting.

The law, approved in September, requires all new residential and commercial projects with more than 5,000 square feet to install fire sprinkler systems.

Existing businesses are required to install the systems if they renovate, expand or convert their buildings for other uses.

Approval of the new regulations was hard-fought. Several council members, including now-council President Danny Burgess, questioned the need for it. The vote was 3-2.

Under the new law, affected parties are allowed to file an appeal for an exemption.

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Ontario Makes Fire Sprinklers Mandatory for New Condos

June 19th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

CNEWS

TORONTO – A move to mandate sprinkler systems in all new Ontario condos and apartments four storeys tall or higher was welcomed by firefighters Wednesday, although they said the new rules fell short of what they were hoping for.

While the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs applauded the announcement made by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Watson, the group suggested sprinklers should be mandatory for all new residential construction projects.

“This is an important first step and we commend the … government for moving forward,” president Richard Boyes said in a release.

“Ultimately, we would like to see sprinklers being made mandatory in all new residential units including single-family dwellings, townhouses and low-rise buildings.”

Boyes said Vancouver and Scottsdale, Ariz., both require sprinklers in all residential buildings and there hasn’t been a single fire fatality in either municipality since they mandated them 18 and 22 years ago respectively.

“We would like to see Ontario be a leader as well and achieve a similar safety record,” he said.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs has suggested some 90 fire fatalities in the last year could have been prevented by sprinklers.

Watson said the changes bring Ontario in line with other jurisdictions across Canada and in the United States.

“We felt there was great consensus to move forward on the highrises because this is the one area that we are a laggert when it comes to the national building codes,” Watson said.

“I found it passing strange that we did not require sprinklers in highrise residential buildings but we do require them in highrise office buildings. We were protecting people when they were at work, but we weren’t protecting them when they were at home.”

He added that extending the mandate to all residential dwellings isn’t a priority.

The building code changes follow public consultations and will take effect April 1, 2010.

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Prevention Still Best Way to Fight Fires

June 11th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By Joan Oliver – Northwest Herald

Fire safety is a lot like insurance: You don’t think about it until you need it. That is, until something bad happens.

Last week in Harvard, 27 people were displaced when two apartment buildings burned in the 1400 block of Northfield Court.

One man, 58-year-old John R. McKoski, later died. It’s still not known whether that was as a result of the fire.

On May 29, 2007, 36 people were displaced when a 24-unit apartment building at 720 St. Johns Road was destroyed in a blaze.

The cause of both fires: lighted cigarettes.

The result: thousands of dollars of damage and disrupted lives for those affected.

I have more than a passing interest in fire safety. That comes from being a firefighter’s wife.

It also means that I often hear of the difficulties of fighting fires in older buildings. And how a building’s construction can make it easier or harder to put out a fire once it has begun.

Ask any firefighter what he or she would do to minimize property damage and save lives.

“A fire starts out small and grows at an exponential rate,” Crystal Lake Fire Chief James Moore told reporter David Fitzgerald. “Sprinklers give occupants a chance to get out.”

My husband likes to quote one of his mentors, who said he’d put sprinklers in phone booths if he could.

It makes sense. Sprinklers stop fires from spreading. That means less property damage and potentially lives saved.

Simple, right? Wrong.

Sprinkler systems aren’t cheap. And retrofitting older buildings, as the apartment buildings mentioned above were, is even more expensive.

But it’s heartening to know that fire codes in many of our towns now require new multi-tenant buildings to have sprinkler systems.

We aren’t up to putting sprinklers in phone booths, but it’s a start.

And soon sprinklers could become as common as smoke detectors.

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Old Buildings Don’t Follow New Fire Codes

June 10th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By DAVID FITZGERALD – Northwest Herald

Last week’s apartment fire in Harvard and another apartment fire in Woodstock last year could have been less severe if the buildings were built today, Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster said.

“Those buildings were built at a time that the codes didn’t require some of the measures we do today,” Webster said this week. “In a building built today, I think it would have been different.”

Combined, the Woodstock fire on St. Johns Road in May 2007 and the Harvard fire displaced more than 63 McHenry County residents in about a year.

“That really reinforces the need for us to protect the residents of those buildings,” Webster said.

The Harvard fire comes just as Crystal Lake and Woodstock are looking to update their fire codes. Both cities already have on the table stricter requirements, including sprinkler systems, for new multi-tenant structures such as apartment buildings.

“A fire starts out small and grows at an exponential rate,” Crystal Lake Fire Chief James Moore said. “Sprinklers give occupants a chance to get out.”

The most recent International Fire Code, which came out in 2006, requires that new apartment buildings be built with sprinklers. Harvard had approved that code, but the older building that burned Tuesday, displacing 27 people, did not fall under the new restriction. One man died of unknown causes at the time of the fire.

Harvard Fire Deputy Chief Alan Styles said his department wanted the best for its residents.

Every home built in Huntley was required to have a sprinkler system for about a year. Village leaders rescinded a part of that ordinance that applied to single-family homes this past September, but it still applies to apartments.

“It’s only a matter of time before people realize that sprinklers are here to stay, just like smoke detectors were years ago,” Huntley Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Ernie Link said.

Towns and fire protection districts update their fire codes every few years, usually strengthening measures each time. But those changes usually apply only to new buildings.

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Canada Province Changing Fire Code

June 8th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By Jordie Dwyer – Fort Record

Years of work and lobbying by the province’s fire chiefs on changing the fire code has paid dividends.

Following the fire that destroyed a large number of homes last July in Edmonton, the province struck a working group to look into what needs to be done to prevent a similar fire in the future.

The High-Intensity Residential Fires Working Group released its final report on May 23 and the government will work immediately to put 18 of the group’s 22 recommendations in place.

“I was actually quite pleased,” Fort Saskatchewan Fire Chief Brian Parker said, when asked for his initial reaction to the report.

“What they have addressed is the fire spread itself.”

There are four major changes to the building code, which the province is hoping to have in place for the spring of 2009. These are: making fire-resistant gypsum wallboard mandatory under siding in homes that are 1.2 metres or less apart; new homes with attached garages must have fire detectors and the fire-resistant gypsum wallboard; sprinklers will be required in attics, crawl spaces and on balconies of all multi-family buildings; and changes to the way things are done on construction sites in order to promote fire safety and prevent arson.

“(Attics and crawl spaces) are all a path for fire travel. What the sprinklers do is slow or stop a fire. The drywall will also stop a fire, by not having it breach through the siding or by stopping one in the garage from reaching the house,” said Parker.

“And we know, that some of the larger apartment fires we have seen somehow started on balconies, so sprinklers will provide some early protection on that basis.”

Parker added the changes are being done to prevent another large residential fire.

“We just can’t have something like that happen again. Now, there will be whole subdivisions built with these protections,” he said.

“They did some pretty aggressive work on this report and fire chiefs have been working for a long time to either get more space between homes or build in more fire protection. There have been some building products which have been a concern, but the drywall will help in that.”

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Dartmouth, MA Gas Hoarding Eyed as Cause of Apartment Fire

June 6th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By Brian Boyd – SouthCoastToday.com

DARTMOUTH — A couple tried to beat the high cost of gasoline by hoarding it in their apartment, but the plan backfired when fumes ignited, causing a fire that displaced residents from eight units in the complex, officials said.

Wednesday’s blaze at Ledgewood Commons, fueled by the gas stored in a utility closet, was quickly extinguished by firefighters. However, the incident had the potential for disaster.

“If it had not been for the sprinklers, this building would have probably burnt to the ground,” said Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.

A husband and wife living in a second-floor unit at the North Dartmouth apartment complex off Faunce Corner Road kept an estimated 45 gallons in nine plastic jugs, Dartmouth’s District 3 Fire Chief Richard Arruda said.

The jugs were covered by cloth rags and stacked in a hallway closet that housed the air conditioning system, Chief Arruda said.

An investigation suggested they were hoarding the gas in response to skyrocketing prices, according to Ms. Mieth and Chief Arruda.

Officials did not immediately release the couple’s names.

No one was seriously injured in the fire. If the gasoline had exploded, though, the results could have been “catastrophic,” Chief Arruda said.

“The worst-case scenario would have been a vapor explosion, and obviously we could have had people seriously injured by the explosion,” he said.

The District 3 Fire Department and the Fire Marshal’s Office were investigating the fire, which started at about 4:30 p.m. and displaced approximately 15 residents from eight units, including the one where the fire started. The other units sustained smoke and water damage.

The damaged units are in a section of one of the three buildings in the apartment complex, which is on Ledgewood Boulevard.

State and fire officials will decide from their investigation whether to bring charges against the couple for fire code violations. It would most likely be a civil matter, not a criminal one, Chief Arruda said.

The husband jumped from the second-floor balcony to escape the fire and sprained his ankle, he said. Everyone else escaped the building without injury.

The Fire Marshal’s Office determined that the fire was accidental, resulting from a heat source — likely the natural gas water heater or a propane-powered cooking appliance — igniting vapors from the stored gas, Ms. Mieth said.

State law prohibits storing more than a quart of gasoline in a home, including attached garages. The gasoline must be stored in an approved safety can, she said.

The law allows people to store up to a gallon of gasoline in a detached garage or shed at least 50 feet away from an inhabited building.

Gas can vaporize even at temperatures below freezing, and vapors travel, Ms. Mieth said.

“Since we handle gas so often, we forget to give it the respect it ought to command,” she said.

The stored gas caused damage beyond the flames and smoke in Wednesday’s fire.

Gasoline from the jugs mixed with water from sprinklers and firefighters’ lines, and the contaminated water spread to nearby apartments, Chief Arruda said.

When the contaminated water was discovered, “all firefighters were ordered out of the building and were immediately washed down to protect them from exposure,” he said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection had a cleanup crew working at the site Thursday, removing the contamination and taking soil samples from near the building for evaluation.

Chief Arruda stressed that hoarding gasoline indoors is not only illegal, but extremely risky.

“It’s not worth the danger,” he said.

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Fire Sprinkler Douses Fire at Riverside Resort

May 31st, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By JIM MANIACI- Mohave Valley News

LAUGHLIN – A sprinkler quickly doused a Wednesday morning fire in a room on the 24th floor of the Riverside Resort Hotel-Casino. There were no injuries, according to the Clark County Fire Department.

“It was a small fire, extinguished by our sprinkler system before the fire department arrived,” according to the hotel’s marketing department.

Clark County Fire Department Deputy Chief Girard Page said the fire, which occurred at about 8 a.m., ignited a curtain in a guest’s room, but the sprinklers did their job and put it out.

No injuries were reported..

He said the hotel staff followed standard safety procedures in evacuating everyone from the 23rd, 24th and 25th floors.

Page said investigators were checking to see what caused the fire, but as of early Wednesday afternoon, he had not received their report.

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South Carolina Senate Agrees to Fire Sprinkler System Installation Tax Break

May 30th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By Tim Smith – Greenville News, SC

COLUMBIA — The Senate today gave key approval to a bill that would give tax credits to those installing fire sprinkler systems.

Senators voted to give the bill final approval, and it now will go to the House for concurrence. Lawmakers are expected to adjourn for the year today.

The bill would give property owners a property tax credit equal to 25 percent of the cost of the sprinkler system and an additional 25 percent in state tax credits, if the law does not require the sprinklers to be installed.

The local government would have to agree to offer local tax credits before a property owner could also claim a state tax credit. The bill also requires that utilities charge actual costs for fees related to connecting the sprinkler systems.

Senators amended the bill Thursday with wording to try and protect small and rural water companies from having to build special water lines if they don’t currently have the capacity to provide lines for fire sprinkler service.

They also added a provision to allow churches to display live Christmas trees indoors.

The legislation was proposed following a series of fire tragedies involving South Carolinians, including a Greenville hotel fire that killed six, a Charleston furniture store fire that left nine firefighters dead and a beach house blaze last October that killed seven college students.

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