BALTIMORE, Md. -- Some came in vans and buses, by air and by rail. They came from large and small departments. And they came to be heard -- and they were successful.
Firefighters and burn survivors descended on the International Code Council's annual conference at Hilton Baltimore Convention Center today (Oct. 28) to vote to keep residential sprinklers on the books.
Earlier tonight, the council considered a request from the nation's home builders to kill a requirement that all new homes have sprinklers by 2011, which was voted down by a majority of its members. Two other provisions -- which sought to weaken the mandate -- also were voted down.
While it was difficult to ascertain just how many firefighters answered the call to head to Baltimore to stand up for the regulation, one man said it was astonishing to see how many people showed up today.
"I was very proud to see how many fire service people showed up. Everyone should be pleased," Paul Measles from the Fort Worth Fire Department said.
Measles said the vote is about saving lives.
"Sprinklers save lives. They are the greatest tool for fire safety."
Firefighter Larry Stanford was one of nearly two dozen from the Raleigh, N.C. who came to vote. In addition to fire personnel, a half dozen people from Baptist Hospital joined them on the trip to promote the sprinkler agenda.
"It is absolutely worth the time, effort and expense to be here. It's about lives, nothing else," Stanford said. "This is for the safety of citizens across the country."
Marianne Roche had a different reason to leave her home in Massachusetts and travel to Baltimore this week.
In 1999, she was attempting to put out a fire in an ashtray when the flames ignited the sleeve of her shirt that was made of polyurethane. "The nylon melted into my body," she said.
The fire left her arms, hands and neck scarred.
"I believe sprinklers absolutely would have helped. They would have put out that fire in the ashtray."
Roche was one of about 50 members of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors who attended the ICC conference.
She said there are so many fires out there that could be quelled before they get out of hand. "I think it's important people hear from burn survivors."
South Carolina Fire Marshal John G. Reich said he also was pleased to see people get involved. "This is democracy at its finest," he said, adding that it's been a good learning experience as well.
"Not only will it save home owners' lives, but the first responders who are going in to fight the fires.
Reich said South Carolina had a large contingent at the conference mainly because people want to be part of a life-saving measure.
South Carolina firefighters Russell Hart and J.R. Brady from the Pelham-Bateville Fire Department agreed it was worth the trip.
"Our vote will count," Hart said. "Having sprinklers takes another risk away from firefighters."
Although the vote was delayed continually throughout the day, supporters said they were determined to stay.
Staff writer Paul Peluso contributed to this story.