Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fire and rescue group won't help build Habitat house without sprinklers

Fire and rescue group won't help build Habitat house without sprinklers

6:59 p.m. EDT, October 26, 2011

HAGERSTOWN— The Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association planned to help build an upcoming Habitat for Humanity “Heroes House” next year — until philosophy got in the way.

Last month, the association voted to participate in the volunteer building project only if the house has a sprinkler system.

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However, Habitat for Humanity doesn’t put sprinklers in its local homes.

Washington County and the city of Hagerstown require sprinklers for some new construction, but not for single-family detached homes.

Sherry Brown Cooper, the executive director of Habitat’s Washington County chapter, said the fire and rescue association wouldn’t have been the only group of “heroes” involved, so, despite the new wrinkle, the project will proceed.

The Heroes House will be the local Habitat chapter’s latest theme project. Others have been for “apostles” and for women only.

A few months ago, the fire and rescue association voted in favor of participating, but then had second thoughts.

Blaine Snyder, the president of the First Hagerstown Hose Co., said that after the first vote, his company decided it would go against their beliefs to help build a house without sprinklers.

In September, the issue came back to the association, which voted 21-2, with one abstention, to only participate if there were sprinklers, according to minutes of that meeting.

Firefighters have tried to get local government bodies to require sprinklers in new residential construction.

“It definitely saves lives,” Snyder said.

Opponents have said buyers usually don’t request sprinklers and mandating them drives up construction costs.

Cooper said Habitat has completed 36 homes in Hagerstown and Washington County, all without sprinklers. The board would have to approve sprinklers as a change in the basic house construction plan.

The Heroes House is scheduled to be in Hagerstown, although Habitat hasn’t purchased the property yet. Cooper said it probably will be Habitat’s first rebuilt house, rather than starting from the ground up.

Snyder said individual volunteer firefighter or rescue squad members could help build the house, but the association won’t officially participate as an organization.

One idea is for fire and rescue companies in the association to pay the cost of a sprinkler system for the house, but that could set a precedent for future Habitat homes, Snyder said.
Copyright © 2011, Herald Mail

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