Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bamboozled: Why doesn't N.J. require fire sprinklers in new homes?

from nj.com

boozle-TollBrothers (5).JPG
Ed Ondayko holds up a part of a fire sprinkler system at his future home in Colts Run at Monroe on December 1, 2015. Ondayko is building new construction and before construction gets too far along, he wants to install a sprinkler system but Toll Brothers said no. (Alexandra Pais/for NJ Advance Media)

Karin Price Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Karin Price Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on December 28, 2015 at 8:22 AM, updated December 28, 2015 at 8:23 AM

Building a new home is a big endeavor.
You want to pick the right kitchen cabinets and countertops, the right lighting fixtures, the right flooring.
But one option isn't readily available: a fire suppression system.
Interior sprinklers.
Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire, reducing heat, smoke and toxic fumes before the fire department arrives. It gives a family more time to escape.
Yet if you want your new construction to have sprinklers, you're probably going to have to hire a custom builder rather than buy into a larger development. Or add them after construction is completed.  
Larger developers simply don't offer the option.
boozle-TollBrothers.JPGThe future home of Ed Ondayko at Colts Run at Monroe on Dec. 1, 2015. Ondayko bought into new construction at the Toll Brothers development. Before construction gets too far along, he wants to install a sprinkler system but Toll Brothers said no. 
The issue came to Bamboozled's attention from a homebuyer who works in the fire protection industry.
When Ed Ondayko decided to buy into new construction at Colts Run in Monroe, he asked his builder, Toll Brothers, about a fire system to protect his family: his wife, three children and a dog -- and potentially his wife's elderly mom.
But Toll Brothers doesn't offer a system as an option, just as it doesn't offer private in-ground pools or solar panels.
Because of his experience with home fires, Ondayko didn't want to take no for an answer. More on that in a moment.
Toll Brothers isn't the only developer that doesn't offer sprinklers. We were unable to find a large developer in New Jersey that does, and we couldn't find anyone willing to share why they're not offered.
A requirement for fire suppression systems came close to becoming law in New Jersey, but not just yet.
In 2009, the International Residential Code (IRC) guidelines added that fire sprinkler systems should be installed in all new construction of one- and two-family homes. (To see the code, search for R313 in the IRC code.
Maryland and California adopted the code in 2012, and some municipalities throughout the country have required the systems, said David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, an industry group.
Why don't more states have such a law?
Homebuilders don't want it, Kurasz said.
"The primary response from homebuilders is that fire sprinkler systems should be the consumer's choice and not mandated," Kurasz said. "Unfortunately, as seen in the case with Mr. Ondayko, many homebuilders simply do not want to install the systems as it is not a primary money-making option like carpets, granite countertops or crown molding."
In an attempt to bring the code to New Jersey, for two years running, the New Home Fire Safety Act was passed in the Assembly and Senate. The legislation would have required newly constructed one- and two-family homes and townhomes that were connected to a public water supply to have fire sprinkler systems installed.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the first version, and he conditionally vetoed the one passed this year. Christie said the additional cost would put homebuyers at a disadvantage. His decision is pending a Department of Community Affairs (DCA) cost-benefit review for townhomes, but single- and two-family homes were removed from consideration.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), one of the bill's sponsors, said the DCA review is still pending.
Back in May, Wisniewski told NJ.com the veto was a "step backwards for fire safety" and "a slap in the face to a community of public safety officials who have endorsed, supported and fought for this legislation." 
Of course, one could argue that this boils down to a fight between homebuilder lobbyists and those working for the fire safety industry.
But it's hard to argue with the fire safety industry's logic.
Kurasz said the suppression systems are more important than ever because of the increased use of lightweight wood construction rather than hardwoods, and because home furnishings, such as couches, often use lightweight composite woods, petroleum-based cloth and synthetic fibers.
"This causes a home fire to burn quicker and hotter than those of the past," Kurasz said. "When coupled with lightweight wood products used in building today, firefighters and residents are at a much greater risk due to increased heat, toxic fumes and the probability of catastrophic collapse."
Back to the story of Ed Ondayko, the fire protection guy who is buying a Toll Brothers home.
Ondayko said he asked Toll about installing a system now -- when the home is in the construction phase -- because that's the cheapest and easiest time to do it. 
boozle-TollBrothers (1).JPGEd Ondayko, on left, and David Kurasz of the NJ Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board stand in front of Ondayko's future home at the Colts Run at Monroe. 
"Installing sprinklers after construction or retrofitting an existing home can be very invasive," Ondayko said. "It would involve the opening of walls and ceilings which are already finished, installing the piping then repairing the wall and ceilings -- sheetrock installation, spackling and painting. This can be very disruptive and inconvenient to the home owner."
Hoping to avoid the mess of a retrofitted system, Ondayko offered to pay for the work and to supply installers, saying Toll Brothers could approve of the contractors before work began.  
Toll Brothers said no.
Ondayko started to network, and several fire safety industry groups reached out on his behalf.
None swayed Toll's position.
Kent Mezaros, vice chairman of the board of the National Fire Sprinkler Association and a board member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, asked Toll to review the matter.
"...We do not have the subcontractors and qualified personnel in place at our single family detached home communities in order to grant this request and undertake a project such as this," said Scott Boehner, the Toll Brothers employee in charge of Colt's Neck at Monroe.
And, the letter noted, fire suppression systems are not required in New Jersey.
Mezaros responded, saying his company was qualified, and had already registered -- per Toll Brothers' suggestion -- as a sub-contractor to do the job at Ondayko's new home. Plus, he said, the firm was already being used by Toll to install a fire sprinkler system at an apartment complex in East Brunswick.
Mezaros' plea didn't change any minds at Toll Brothers.
Shane Ray, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, asked for reconsideration from Richard Hartman, Toll Brothers' president and COO.
In a written response, Hartman said Toll Brothers "currently lacks the resources and expertise to install fire sprinklers."  
He, too, said the state of New Jersey doesn't require such systems.
Ondayko wasn't ready to give up yet, so he contacted Bamboozled.
"The safety and well-being of my family mean everything to me," Ondayko said. "One can replace their personal possessions and valuables lost, but nothing can replace the loss or disfigurement of a loved one due to a fire."
We asked Toll Brothers to take another look.
After a few days, it said its on-site management team was setting up a meeting with Ondayko.
Spokeswoman Andrea Meck said Toll doesn't allow homebuyers to bring in their own contractors or friends to do work in homes before closing.
"Toll Brothers' goal is to ensure happy homeowners in our communities," Meck said. "If we cannot satisfy Mr. Ondayko, we are happy to explore options to release him from his contract and provide him with a full refund."
boozle-TollBrothers (2).JPGEd Ondayko, on left, and David Kurasz of the NJ Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board talk about installing a fire sprinkler system in Ondayko's future home at Colts Run at Monroe. 
Ondayko met with the Toll team earlier this month, and it seems the builder had something of a change of heart.
Toll presented Ondayko with several options, all using a Toll Brothers contractor to install a system. But the cost would be almost double the cost if Ondayko's company did the job.
As a compromise, Ondayko offered to supply the materials and have the Toll contractor do the work, but Toll said no.
"It's basically their guy or no guy," Ondayko said, saying the company made clear there was a profit margin to consider for both Toll and the contractor.
Another choice was to prepare the home so it would be easier for Ondayko to retrofit the job after the rest of the building was completed.
For all the choices, he'd have to pay cash for the job rather than have it be part of his mortgage.
And finally, if Ondayko was unhappy, Toll said it would refund all his deposits on the home and he could back out of the deal.
"It bugs me to know what it really costs and you have to pay someone else to do it for more. You feel like somehow you got ripped off," he said. "It's like if I was a painter and I hired someone to paint my house for $1,000, but I know I could do it for $500."
He's reviewing his options, and we'll let you know what he decides.
If you want to learn more about fire safety for your home, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the National Fire Prevention Association
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com's weekly e-newsletter.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Historic Downtown Prescott Hotel Fire Controlled by Fire Sprinklers

from prescottenews.com

24 December 2015
  Don Devendorf

Historic Downtown Prescott Hotel Fire Controlled by Fire Sprinklers

A fire in a 56-room hotel could have been much worse.

On Wednesday December 23, 2015, at approximately 11:50 AM, the Prescott Regional Communications Center received multiple notifications of smoke coming from a third story room at the Downtown Prescott Inn, a 56 room extended stay hotel sharing space with two other businesses in the same building. The building, originally the A.J. Head Hotel, dates back to 1896.
Prescott Fire Department and the Central Yavapai Fire District personnel responded to the scene with 3 Engine companies, a Truck Company, a Battalion Chief, a Division Chief, a Utility truck, as well as the Prescott Police Department, Life Line Ambulance, and Fire Investigators. The first arriving fire engine, who was staged less than half a block away, in the rear of the structure, for a medical call, found smoke coming from the rear of the structure on the third floor. Prescott Police Department officers were also in the area for the same medical call and immediately began evacuating the three story structure. Fire personnel made access to the third floor by way of rear stairs in the alley to find heavy smoke on the upper floor. Upon entering the involved apartment, they found the fire under control because an automatic fire sprinkler head was flowing water directly over the fire. Crews assured that the fire was fully extinguished and remained on the scene for 3 hours evacuating water and assisting with getting the building back into working order, as much as possible, so that the least amount of tenants would have to be relocated. The investigation into the cause of the fire continues. There were no injuries from the fire but there were two medical calls that were handled at the scene during the fire. While only one apartment was affected by the fire itself, 10 living rooms were deemed unsafe to inhabit due to not being able to provide electricity to them while cutting power to the areas that water effected. There is no damage estimate as it is currently being evaluated.
There was a significant fire in the same structure in the late 70’s that caused a large section of the building to be damaged. An extensive remodel was undertaken in the early 80’s and subsequent improvements included the installation of fire alarm and fire sprinkler system. It was those systems that kept fire damage to a minimum and allowed the occupants to safely exit the building from this fire. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

WILDOMAR: Hospital fire doused by sprinklers

from pe.com

image0-WILDOMAR: Hospital fire doused by sprinklers
Fire sprinklers doused a small blaze in a storage room at a Wildomar hospital, say Riverside County Fire Department officials.
The fire was reported at 5:13 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, at Inland Valley Medical Center, 36485 Inland Valley Drive.
The first firefighters to arrive saw no smoke or flames. But a closer investigation led them to the storage room fire.
Although sprinklers halted the flames, they caused some water damage, fire officials said in a written statement.
Fire crews planned to stay for about an hour to help clean up the mess.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Residential fire sprinklers in Elko homes

from elcodaily.com

ELKO — Just in time for the holiday season, the City of Elko Fire Department and Braemar Construction have announced the installation of the first fire sprinkler systems within a single-family dwelling in Elko.
“The inclusion of residential fire sprinklers in single-family dwellings is a reliable life safety and property protection tool to combat and reduce the fire threat and the risk of mortality,” said Fire Marshal Josh Carson, explaining 80 percent of all fire deaths occur at home.
Braemar built luxury townhomes in what is known as a “cluster home development.” This type of development has narrow streets and does not allow for ease of access with firetrucks. Therefore, as Carson explained, in order to maintain fire safety these dwellings have fire sprinkler systems.
Tuscany Townhomes is located at the intersection of Khoury Lane and East Jennings Way.
These residential sprinklers are the first of their kind in Elko. At this time, only commercial buildings in the city require these systems. Residential systems require them when there are special situations related to fire flow and fire department access.
The systems were installed by the licensed fire protection contractor Extreme Fire Protection from Reno, said Carson.
He explained fire sprinkler contractors are required to be licensed by the Nevada State Contractors Board and the Nevada State Fire Marshal’s Office, and are required to follow local and state fire codes and installation standards.
“This is our first venture with fire sprinklers, as far as the Elko area, so it was kind of a learning process but I have to say it was fairly simple. They’re not complicated at all as far as putting into a home,” said Dusty Shipp, owner of Braemar Construction, explaining the cost was not dramatic, but fairly minimal.
Braemar also received a break on insurance costs by installing these protectants, said Shipp.
These systems are going to continue to be in the building industry by either customer choice or become a standard, he said. In the home the Free Press was able to tour, the sprinklers installed were fairly minimalist and maintained the white color of the ceilings.
Shipp discussed one of the common myths of sprinkler systems — that they cause more harm than fire damage. Shipp said the sprinklers are only activated where the fire is, with the water being distributing from head to head from the piping — so the water damage is contained to the source of the fire.
Carson explained that single-family homes draw water from the initial plumbing system of the house. However, apartments have a dedicated waterline for the sprinklers.
The construction company would like to offer these systems as an option to customers, especially on more custom-built single family homes, said Shipp and Andrew Smith, superintendent for Braemar.
“The system went in as beautiful as the houses that they build,” said Carson.
Fire sprinkler systems help keep fires small to allow residents time to escape and for emergency personnel to arrive.
“The risk of injury or death decreases by approximately 80 percent when the home is equipped with a residential fire sprinkler system. When coupled with a working smoke alarm, residents have a drastic increase of survivability in a fire event,” said Carson.
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More than 2,500 people die in home fires each year, according to the NFPA.
Common myths about residential fire sprinklers often deter the public, stakeholders and policy makers from installing or making residential fire sprinklers a requirement of single and two-family dwellings, Carson explained.
These misconceptions include: fire sprinklers are too expensive to install; fire sprinklers go off accidentally; if one sprinkler goes off, they all go off; fire sprinklers cause extensive water damage, worse than fire damage; new homes don’t burn; smoke alarms provide adequate fire safety.
With the inclusion of these systems, many times residents can continue to live in their homes after a fire. Fire sprinklers are even environmentally friendly.
During the construction of the townhomes discussed here, there was an average cost of $2.75 per square foot or $6,875 per unit.
Aside from saving lives, these systems can reduce insurance premiums.
“According the Insurance Services Office Inc. protecting all areas of your home excluding attics, bathrooms, closets, and other areas allowed by code, an 8 percent reduction in premiums can be achieved,” said Carson.
There is a 13 percent reduction for full sprinkler system protection that includes attics, bathrooms, closets and attached structures, according to ISO.
“Home Fire Sprinklers are a valid way to reduce civilian and firefighter injury and fatalities, homeowner insurance premiums and uninsured property loss. Even still, 99.9 percent of homes in the Elko area are not equipped with the same protection as found within our apartments, hotels, and businesses,” concluded Carson, reminding the community that fire safety is a community effort and injury and death can be reduced by taking a “proactive approach.”

Friday, November 6, 2015


from abc7.com 

Two apartment buildings erupted in flames in Anaheim Friday, prompting evacuations and displacing at least 40 residents.

Flames and heavy smoke poured out of the roofs of two apartment buildings in Anaheim early Friday morning, prompting several evacuations and damaging eight apartments.

The three-alarm fire was reported at the Rancho Benmore Apartments in the 1500 block of E. Benmore Lane at about 5:30 a.m.

The large blaze was fully involved through the roofs where the flames and smoke were most visible.

Neighbors and evacuated residents looked on as firefighters worked to get the blaze under control and prevent it from spreading to nearby structures.

Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt estimates that at least 40 people were displaced.

Firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority and Fullerton Fire Department assisted Anaheim crews in fighting the fire. Wyatt said firefighters had to retreat from initial positions inside and out when roofs and stairways were compromised.

The blaze was knocked down at about 6:20 a.m. The fire at the two-story apartment buildings caused an estimated $500,000 in structural damage.

One Fullerton firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his shoulder.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hamilton fire company presenting fire sprinkler burn demonstration Oct. 8

from nj.com

Rich Cuccagna | For NJ.comBy Rich Cuccagna | For NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on October 02, 2015 at 1:02 PM, updated October 02, 2015 at 1:15 PM

HAMILTON — In honor of National Fire Prevention Week, the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board will be hosting a fire sprinkler burn demonstration at Hamilton Township Fire District 9 on Thursday, October 8 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
NJFSAB wants to better educate the local community about fire prevention and safety by showcasing the effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems ability to control and extinguish house fires, and offering safety tips to protect the people they love most.
The demonstration is suitable for audiences of all ages and backgrounds, and lasts about 20 minutes.
Fire sprinkler experts will be on hand at the demonstration to discuss fire safety tips as well as the life and property-saving benefits of residential fire sprinklers, including insurance discounts and actual costs of installation.
Rich Cuccagna may be reached at rcuccagna@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RichCuccagna. Find The Times of Trenton on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Debate about mandatory fire sprinklers continues between builders, firefighters

from watertowndailytimes.com

Item 1 of 1
A proposed change that would have required built-in fire sprinklers in all new homes was rejected in August by the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council.
The debate continues over the value of built-in fire sprinklers in new home construction, a month after a proposal to require them was rejected by the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council.
Firefighters dissatisfied with the move plan to continue to voice their concerns as the state Department of State leads a public-review process for an updated state Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, which was adopted by the council Aug. 19 without the proposed sprinkler mandate.
The council’s rejection of the mandate comes after firefighter groups argued that mandated sprinklers would save people’s lives by swiftly putting out fires. Builders, meanwhile, contended the extra cost to install low-flow automatic sprinklers in homes would turn buyers away. It should be up to homeowners, they said, to decide whether to pay for the installation of sprinklers for enhanced safety.
The council — composed of 17 governor-appointed members — decided not to include the sprinkler mandate as part of an update made to the building code. The code, last revised in 2009, was updated to include all standards in the 2015 version of the International Residential Code — except for the controversial sprinkler mandate. Builders are required to follow that mandate in only two states: California and Maryland.
The updated code adopted by the council now will undergo a public review, led by the Department of State, before it becomes law. Based on feedback from a comment period and public hearings, the department could elect to amend the code. The review process is expected to be done in early 2016.
The proposed change would have required builders to install sprinkler systems in all one- and two-family homes. The council also rejected a separate proposal that would have required sprinklers in new townhouses. The updated code, meanwhile, will continue to require builders to install sprinklers in homes with three or more stories.
Gerald R. DeLuca, executive director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the council’s decision to reject the sprinkler mandate. The association represents about 7,000 career and volunteer firefighters statewide.
“I’m disappointed they chose to put the profitability of builders over safety,” he said. The sprinkler requirement “was one piece of the international code they adopted, and what they did was take out the sprinklers without making other adjustments. ... You wouldn’t take electrical safety out of the code because it costs too much, but that’s what they did with sprinklers.”
The cost to install residential sprinklers, meanwhile, has been hotly contested by firefighters and builders.
Mr. DeLuca said the National Fire Protection Association has estimated the installation cost of built-in sprinklers to be about $1.35 per square foot, which is the national average. He estimated that, on average, it would cost $2,500 to $3,000 to install sprinklers in most single- and two-family homes. And it probably would cost about an additional $2,000 for homes with wells, he said, because they may need to install either a larger well pump or a 250-gallon storage tank to support a sprinkler system.
“We’ve talked to people in the Baltimore area where sprinklers are mandated, and they said the prices were higher than when they were first required three years ago,” he said. “But as more homes were built, the prices came down to about $1 per square foot.”
But the New York Builders Association, which has about 2,500 members statewide, has estimated the installation of fire sprinklers to be “$10,000 to $20,000” per home, according to Lewis A. Dubuque, executive vice president of the association. That price range was based on estimates provided by sprinkler installers to builders.
Mr. Dubuque said that while the installation of sprinklers is highly encouraged by builders, members of the builders association believe it should be up to homeowners to decide whether to install them. The state already requires the installation of hard-wired smoke detectors in homes, he said, and homeowners shouldn’t be compelled to pay for extra safety features.
“Hard-wired smoke detectors are a cost-efficient way to keep people safe, and that’s your safety belt,” Mr. Dubuque said. “If they can afford to add sprinklers, they have that option.”
A statewide poll conducted by the Siena College Research Institute in 2014 found that 79 percent of upstate New Yorkers supported consumer choice for the installation of sprinklers.
“The public doesn’t want this because it would make it more difficult to buy new homes,” Mr. Dubuque said.
Citing statistics that appear to contradict firefighters’ arguments, Mr. Dubuque said a recent study done by the association found that fatalities from fires are occurring mostly in older homes. In 2014, fires at 52 homes statewide were responsible for at least one fatality each, according to statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration. On average, Mr. Dubuque said, those homes were built in 1935.
Mr. DeLuca, however, said results from that study shouldn’t cause people to conclude older homes are more susceptible to fatal fires.
“There are more old homes out there currently than new homes, so statistics are going to be skewed,” he said.