Having witnessed 60 fire deaths over a span of 27 years, Assistant Fire Chief Danny Beeler fought back tears while urging a Tennessee Senate Commerce Committee to consider these losses. "I've seen too many bodies," Beeler, a member of the Tennessee Fire Sprinkler Coalition, told the committee, according to a story by the Knoxville News Sentinel. "Please don't take an action that will put (people) ... in greater danger."
This "action" Beeler refers to is the passage of legislation that would prohibit the requirement of fire sprinkler systems for townhouses by any local or statewide adopted building codes. The law would also repeal any local ordinances already on the books.
Beeler joined three other firefighters in front of the committee, but was the only one to testify. NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team supplied the advocates with information on Tennessee's civilian fire deaths in residential properties and talking points.
Originally opposing the bill, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's administration changed its tune after the inclusion of an amendment stating local governments, by way of a 2/3 vote by city council or county commission, can reenact sprinkler ordinances. The amendment, noted Beeler, doesn't go far enough to safeguard lives during residential fires.
The Homebuilders Association of Tennessee supported the bill, according to the Sentinel, adding that the association spent upwards of $200,000 lobbying the Legislature last year.
With a 7-1 vote, the committee approved the bill.
Show sprinkler opponents that safety should be prioritized at home. Join a state sprinkler coalition, and watch this video underscoring the coalition movement: