N.H. Mulls Statewide Sprinkler Law

MANCHESTER, N.H. --

New Hampshire lawmakers and fire officials could be in for a heated debate over sprinklers.

The New Hampshire State Building Code Review Board has voted to require sprinkler systems in every newly constructed single- and two-family home and townhouse starting in 2012.

Lawmakers have two years to challenge the ordinance before a new phase of fire safety will begin in New Hampshire. Some communities have already required sprinklers in new homes.

Fire officials seeking to make it a statewide requirement said a law would save lives and property, but some have already questioned the cost.

Demonstrations by the state fire marshal show how quickly flames can spread in homes without sprinkler systems.

Durham Fire Chief Corey Landry is on the board that approved requiring sprinkler systems in newly constructed houses and townhouses starting in April 2012.

"Basically, you're putting a firefighter in each room of your home," he said. "It's a quick ... safety attack on that fire at the base of the fire."

The chief is on an education campaign, saying residents will not see obvious sprinkler heads because they're now built to pop out of ceilings if one is activated.

Fire officials said they'll spend the next two years convincing lawmakers to accept the ordinance. They said adding a sprinkler system during construction now costs about $1.65 per square foot, or $3,300 for a 2,000-square-foot home.

While the cost is decreasing over time, it's raising some questions in the real estate field.

"At least it's two years. We'll get up to speed, we'll figure it out. We'll certainly comply, and we'll make it work, but ultimately, it's going to add to the cost of housing, which is going to make it tough for consumers," said Bert Cox, president of the New Hampshire Real Estate Investors Association.

Fire officials said the cost saves lives, property and money over time.

"There are many success stories throughout the nation of residential sprinklers. The reason we don't hear about them is because they're non-news events, nobody dies. There are no three alarms called for the fire," New Hampshire State Fire Marshal William Degnan said.

Fire officials said legislators have two years to take action, and there already a couple challenges to a statewide sprinkler ordinance.

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