One might expect to find Chicago Firefighter Kevin Fitzpatrick fighting fires on the roofs of residences, but he’s also been seen installing fire-treated plywood on the roofs of new homes.
As owner of Wilmot Builders, Fitzpatrick recently assisted with the build of a new, sprinkler-protected home for his parents, John and Lynn Fitzpatrick, in Alsip, Illinois. The single-family home is an outcome of the village’s sprinkler ordinance, which is in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.
The build was a learning experience since it was Fitzpatrick’s first attempt at sprinklering a home. Fortunately, he saved money on the project by selecting a sprinkler contractor who knew how to cost-effectively meet all 13D guidelines.
For instance, the plumbing inspector cited the need for a reduced pressure zone backflow preventer, which would have meant additional costs. Since the system does not have a fire department connection, Fitzpatrick and his contractor discovered they did not need this type of preventer, since there was no chance of non-potable water being pumped into the system. Therefore, a cheaper alternative was a double detector backflow preventer.
Moreover, Fitzpatrick saved more money through the use of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) pipe. The plumbing inspector originally called for copper pipe but later reversed the decision due to the ceiling height and the spacing between the joists.
Fitzpatrick’s initial plans were to install fire sprinklers in all rooms and spaces, but upon further review of NFPA 13D, he discovered that bathrooms under 55 square feet and closets under 24 square feet did not require sprinklers. He also discovered that he did not have to protect the attic (it wasn’t a finished, storage space and didn't include heat-producing devices) or the garage.
To showcase the new home, Fitzpatrick allowed the Alsip Fire Department and the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) to host an open house for elected officials, village department heads, and staff. The attendees went on a tour of the home before drywall was installed so they could get a behind-the-walls view of the system. A live burn/sprinkler demonstration also took place in a fire sprinkler demonstration trailer to display how sprinklers save lives.
At the end of the open house, NIFSAB gave the Fitzpatrick’s the fire sprinkler plans, a copy of the NFPA 13D booklet, and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s “Living with Sprinklers” Kit. NIFSAB gave Fitzpatrick information on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Live Safety Initiatives. Number 15 specifically calls for new home fire sprinkler installations and model code adoption to prevent firefighter deaths and injuries.
That day, village officials and firefighters learned about the importance of NFPA 13D and adopting sprinkler requirements. Most importantly, John and Lynn Fitzpatrick now have peace of mind knowing that their son protected them with fire sprinklers.
This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.