The New Lenox Fire Protection District passed an ordinance requiring all new construction in unincorporated areas of the fire district to be protected with fire sprinklers. The requirement includes all commercial and residential structures, including single-family homes.
According to Fire Chief Adam Riegel, not only will this requirement protect residents, visitors and firefighters, it will also have a positive economic impact. “Fire sprinklers keep business doors open,” states Riegel. “Often, businesses that experience larger fires without fire sprinklers never reopen or end up leaving town.”
Such was the case last August when the fire district responded to a fire at an unsprinklered commercial building in unincorporated New Lenox. It required a massive response, the fire spread to another building, Interstate 80 had to be shut down, and fire crews had to deal with flare-ups for days. Now, the parcel is vacant and it’s a loss of tax base for the fire district.
Deputy Chief Dan Turner notes the importance of requiring fire sprinklers in new homes and multifamily buildings as well. “We had two fatal fires in residences between 2017 and 2019, along with an unsprinklered apartment building fire in November 2018 that hospitalized two and displaced five families,” says Turner. “These deaths, injuries and displacements are preventable with fire sprinklers.”
Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that approximately eight out of 10 fire deaths occur in homes and most often happen at night when people are sleeping. “Smoke alarms are key to warning people there is smoke from a fire, however, fire sprinklers are the only technology that can stop a fire from becoming deadly,” says Fire Marshal James Brown.
Erik Hoffer, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), credits the New Lenox Protection District’s administration and board for passing the ordinance. “This is a win-win for the community and firefighters alike. It addresses the growing national concern of firefighter health and safety in regard to fires and the associated carcinogens,” Hoffer said. “Thanks to the foresight of this group, all future new construction will be protected with fire sprinklers and thereby save lives for generations to come.”
According to NIFSAB, there are more than 110 municipalities and fire protection districts in Illinois that require fire sprinklers in all new construction, regardless of building type, through the adoption of ordinances and model codes provided by the International Code Council and the NFPA.
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