Rule proposes sprinklering new homes
IF YOU GO
What: Douglas County commissioners meeting
When: 1:30 p.m. today
Where: Tahoe Transportation Center, 169 Highway 50, Stateline
A proposed ordinance would require owners of new homes more than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant to install indoor automatic sprinklers in East Fork Township.
Under state law, before the county can adopt a code requiring installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system in new dwellings smaller than 5,000 square feet, it first has to conduct an independent cost-benefit analysis.
The findings from that analysis have to be made at a public hearing that the benefits of requiring sprinklers exceed the cost of installation.
While the ordinance requiring residential sprinklers for certain new homes in East Fork Township is new, some subdivisions have been required to install them over the years.
Fire Marshal Steve Eisele listed Jobs Peak, Taylor Creek and Clear Creek on the east slope of the Carson Range as three where sprinklers were required.
“We did a project off the south end of East Valley with 10 lots where we required sprinklers,” he said.
The International Residential Code has been regularly adopted by Douglas County without the requirement for residential sprinklers.
“We, as a county, have opted not to adopt that language,” he said. “Tahoe Douglas has had a form of a residential sprinkler ordinance for many years.”
Eisele said the ordinance being introduced this week addresses homes being built where there isn’t enough water to fight a fire.
The real purpose of a residential sprinkler system is to keep a home’s occupant safe, but that firefighters don’t expect it to extinguish a fire completely.
“It allows early detection of the fire and suppressing it long enough to allow everyone to exit the building safely,” he said. “A residential sprinkler system only uses a minimum amount of water compared to firefighters bringing a hose. Most homes see less damage from heat and smoke and less water damage.”
He said the cost of installing a modern sprinkler system in a new home is roughly $2 a square foot.
He said sprinklers also give firefighters time to respond to a home, and help keep a burning house from spreading to the wildland.
“Not all wildfires start in the wildland,” he said. “We don’t want a house fire to spread to the wildland. This allows us to effectively fight a fire.”
Under the new ordinance, expansion of homes that are more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant could also trigger the requirement.
The ordinances are scheduled to be introduced on Thursday.
Commissioners could consider the ordinance adopting the full uniform fire code at a hearing April 4.
County commissioners adopted the 2012 International Fire Code in 2015.
Since then firefighters across the Sierra Front met and proposed revisions to the 2018 code for use in Northern Nevada.
The code change includes life safety inspections before the renewal or issuance of a vacation home permit.
It also addresses unwanted fire alarms, which is any alarm that occurs when there isn’t an emergency.
“This includes nuisance activations in response to predictable environmental stimuli, such as, but not limited to cooking fumes, smoking and construction activities,” according to the revision.
The alarm system owners are responsible and where they become repetitive, fees or citations could be issued in response.
Sprinkler systems would be required in East Fork for all buildings three stories or greater or 5,000 square feet or more.
The issue was raised during debate on the Genoa Shares project in January, and was one of the reasons cited for the original denial of the second reading.
At a court-ordered rehearing, it was pointed out that hydrants along Jacks Valley Road that have yet to be charged could provide the necessary fire flows once the water line linking the east and west portions of the county’s water system is installed.
The northwest corner of Carson Valley saw two fires in subsequent summers. No homes were lost in the fires on either side of Jacks Valley Road, but residents in the area around the Genoa Lakes Ranch Course cited fire danger in their opposition to the project.