By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Firefighters across the country and in Minnesota are fighting to make sure every new home has a fire sprinkler system.

Firefighters started side-by-side fires in a new demonstration trailer to show how sprinklers save lives and property. About 80 percent of fire fatalities in the U.S. and in Minnesota occur at home.

“With both smoke alarm for early warning fire sprinklers for area extinguishment is the best fire protection you can have in your home,” St. Paul Fire Marshall Steve Zaccard said.

A demonstration showed what happens to a room with a fire sprinkler and one without.

“With today’s modern furnishings and the lightweight construction that new houses are built of, they don’t stand very well under fire conditions,” Zaccard said.

The room with sprinklers had some water damage but the room without sprinklers was destroyed the heat so intense it caused a “flashover.”

“Flashover is when everything in a room lights up at once,” Zaccard said. “Nobody can survive a flashover.”

Zaccard says the most vulnerable in our families, elderly and children, are the ones who perish in fires with no sprinklers, and it’s also dangerous for firefighters.

The Builders Association of Minnesota (BAM) agrees with the need to prevent fire deaths, it just doesn’t believe fire sprinklers is the most effective way to accomplish that.

BAM executive director Remi Stone said

“Since 1991 when the construction code began requiring interconnected, hardwired, battery back-up smoke detectors there have been zero residential deaths in new construction,” BAM executive director Remi Stone said. “At best mandating sprinkler systems in new homes is redundant.”

BAM says putting fire sprinklers in a new home adds $7,000-15,000 on average to the price of that home, putting it out of reach of most Minnesotans. Firefighters say their research says fire sprinklers adds about 1 percent to the price. That’s about the same as the cost of installing carpet of granite counter tops.

Nonetheless, both sides want the same thing: reducing the number of deaths caused by fire.


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