March 27, 2019
We've no objection to extending the requirement for sprinklers to all new home construction.
A proposal going before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on April 4 calls for requiring sprinklers in new construction more than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant.
East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said the 1,000 feet represents the length of hose carried on a firefighting rig.
The ordinance, as written, would affect homes built in the wildland interface, where water's scarce.
But county commissioners expressed an interest last week in skipping the phase-in and requiring them for all homes.
It's true that requiring sprinklers in single family homes will be an added expense, but if Eisele's estimate of $2 a square foot is accurate, then the additional $4,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home would be a rounding error.
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However, we believe there is a misconception about sprinklers that's spreading among the citizenry like, say, wildfire.
While effective in keeping a house fire from spreading to the wildland, the reverse is not always true.
One of the first casualties in a wildfire is electrical service. Even if the power stays on, unless the sprinklers are pointed toward the outside of the home, its exterior could be ablaze before the sprinklers inside even activate.
California adopted sprinkler regulations for one and two family dwellings in 2011.
Since then hundreds of homes and lives have been lost to Golden State wildfires.
We're not opposed to including the requirement. We wouldn't want people developing a false sense of security because they have sprinklers installed. In Nevada evacuations are voluntary, and we'd hate to lose someone because they thought they were safe.
More conducive to protecting a home in a large wildfire is sufficient space surrounding it to give firefighters a place to make a stand.