Beaver Dam Fire Officials Applaud Sprinkler Mandate

2/10/17 – Beaver Dam Fire officials are applauding a decision by a state agency that would have ended a requirement that fire sprinklers be installed in new apartment buildings. The Department of Safety and Professional Services abruptly changed course this week and decided not to suspend the mandate that fire sprinklers be required for apartment structures of three to 20 units. The Wisconsin safety agency’s Deputy Secretary Eric Esser announced the reversal two hours after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first posted a news story about the change on its website. Beaver Dam Deputy Fire Chief Matt Christian attended a hearing in Madison last week and says the plan received opposition from the Wisconsin Fire Chiefs Association. Christian says sprinklers are a safety feature that are good for the occupants and firefighters keeping the situation “at bay” until officials arrive on scene. The Wisconsin Builders Association sought to end the fire sprinkler requirement. Executive Director Brad Boycks says the association supported the commercial building code changes because it struck the right balance between modernizing and updating the code while not pricing families out of housing options. Another change that was suggested by a study panel formed by the agency would no longer require ground faults and circuit interrupters in new construction going forward. Deputy Chief Christian says the devices save lives. For example, he says a toaster that overheats would trip the circuit cutting power to the toaster and preventing a fire. Boyks says the code changes as currently drafted do not roll back any standards in the state and would only apply going forward with new construction. He notes that the items add up to $600 in costs to a new home and cited a 2016 study that shows 3,820 Wisconsin families would be prices out of buying a new home when costs increase by one-thousand dollars. While the sprinkler requirement will stay in place, there is no word yet on status of the proposed ground fault and circuit interrupter changes.