New homes built in Olympia, WA on or after July 1, 2014 will be protected by fire sprinkler systems according to The Olympian.
The Olympia City Council decided on the requirement in a preliminary 6-1 vote recently and is expected to take a final vote on the matter next week.
The article includes statements by Angela White, government affairs director for Olympia Master Builders, who said her organization opposes the sprinkler requirement because modern homes are safer and have hard-wired smoke alarms. “I think that we may be moving forward on a mandate for something that is not a problem,” she said.
But she is wrong. Fire in the home is a problem; 83% of those who die in fires do so in homes. Age, disabilities and other human factors add to the risk. Fire sprinklers provide additional escape time.
Fire sprinkler opponents like to boast that new homes are safer and that smoke alarms are enough. This is a myth. Smoke alarms do a good job of providing early warning, but fire sprinklers keep home fires from becoming deadly.
New methods of construction and modern home contents negatively impact life safety. New homes are built mostly of lightweight/engineered wood components. These components when exposed to fire burn rapidly and are prone to catastrophic collapse without warning, as early as six minutes from the onset of fire.
The synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings add to the increased risk by burning hotter and producing extremly toxic fumes.
Larger homes, open spaces, increased fuel loads, void spaces, and changing building materials contribute to:
- Faster fire propagation
- Shorter time to flashover (when everything in a room explodes in flames)
- Rapid changes in fire dynamics
- Shorter escape time
- Shorter time to collapse
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