Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

East Fork Fire Protection District Dispels Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems
Posted on 05/24/2019
East Fork Fire Protection District Dispels Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

With the recent Douglas County adoption of the 2018 International Fire Code, residential fire sprinkler systems will now be required in all new homes in areas where the necessary fire flow requirements are below standards and that are not within 1000 feet of an approved water supply for fire protection.  In addition, all new residential construction, which exceeds 5000 square feet, will also be required to install a residential fire sprinkler system.  Existing homes in areas will be allowed a one-time maximum 50% increase in square footage where fire flow requirements are below standards, and that are not within 1000 feet of an approved water supply for fire protection.  A one-time increase of 360 square feet will be allowed to existing homes over 5000 square feet. For the purposes of calculating the square footage of a residence, the garage is included in the result. All areas within the exterior walls of the structure will be considered in the square footage calculation.

 Accessory structures without a residential use located within the structure are exempt from the sprinkler requirement.

The Fire District considered this measure while they were governed under the Douglas County Commission several years ago but was unable to garner the necessary support. The Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District was able to persuade the Douglas County Commission to adopt a similar measure several years ago and has been requiring residential systems for some time.

Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal, Steve Eisele, participated with the Northern Nevada Code Amendment Working Group to establish a common set of fire code amendments.  The District was also able to recommend adoption of specific codes, such as the residential sprinkler requirement, to address issues within the District.  East Fork is one of the last agencies within Nevada to have a residential sprinkler requirement.

Since its adoption, and now in conjunction with the adoption of other County codes, including the International Residential Code, whereby the sprinkler requirement is left up to the fire agency with jurisdiction. Some realtors/developers, and contractors have registered their opposition to the requirement, arguing that costs can range from $20,000 to $30,000 dollars for the system, that large water tanks are necessary, that domestic wells can’t support the system, that there is a lack of qualified installers, and that adding a system could add months to the actual construction time of a new home.

Residential fire sprinkler systems do make a difference. A residential sprinkler system will save a homeowner money in the event of a fire. When activated, a sprinkler head will spray 15 to 20 gallons per minute.  Statistics show that eighty to ninety percent of fires are extinguished with one sprinkler head. Water damage from a fire suppressed by a home sprinkler system incurs an average of $2,200 in costs; water damage from a fire suppressed by a fire department adds up to an average of $25,000, not including the fire damage or loss of personal property.  The sprinkler head in most cases will suppress the fire before it grows.   While the East Fork Fire Protection District prides itself with fast response times, the District is challenged geographically as some responses may take ten minutes or more depending on available resources.   Deputy Chief Eisele noted that there are many misconceptions regarding residential sprinkler systems.  Cost is one of them.  With new technology and materials, the cost of installing a residential system has come down over the years.  According to the Home Fire Sprinkler Organization, the average cost to install a home system is $1.35 per square foot. Locally, new installation of sprinkler systems in the average home runs between $3.50 and $4.50 per square foot.

For more information on residential fire sprinkler systems, the District recommends visiting the Home Fire Sprinkler Organization website at https://homefiresprinkler.org/fire-sprinkler-answers.  For specific questions on the local requirement, please contact the East Fork Fire Protection District at 782-9040 or call to schedule an appointment with our Fire Prevention Division if you would like a consultation. 

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