New Paltz May Require Fire Sprinklers In New Housing

New York town considers fire sprinklers in new construction and rehabs of 50% or more.


Terence P. Ward’s article in Hudson Valley One on fire sprinklers, illustrates a trend around the country toward requiring fire sprinklers in new homes, especially as their cost drops. He reports:

New Paltz Village Fire Chief Cory Wirthmann, who also works as a fire and building inspector for the municipality, shared his views on residential fire sprinklers at the January 9 joint meeting of town and village boards. A law requiring them in new construction is now under consideration, and Wirthmann would also like to see them added to rental buildings when significant renovations are made.

Having sprinklers “doesn’t take [firefighters’] place,” the chief explained; rather, they increase the chance that residents will get out safely before help even arrives. Reducing rescues saves lives not only of those residents, but also potentially of firefighters themselves. …

Already required in commercial buildings, the cost of adding sprinklers is now considered affordable enough to be mandated where people sleep. Presumably that calculation has been based on purely economic factors; the chief noted that “it’s hard to value human life” regardless of the cost. With current technology it wouldn’t even result in visible pipes and sockets to add them to new or existing buildings, and with insurance premium reductions the cost would be offset over time with those savings. …

Trustee William Wheeler Murray, himself a firefighter, is hopeful that in addition to new construction, owners of existing rental properties might eventually be required to add sprinklers. According to Wirthmann, such a requirement might be triggered by renovations of 50% or more, for example. The cost of such retrofitting is no longer prohibitive, he noted.

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