Sprinkler law increase Calif. to home prices


Single-family homes built after January 1, 2011 must have a fire sprinkler system.

"It's clear to us that sprinklers save lives. They reduce the injuries, and they really protect millions and millions of dollars in property," Daniel Berlant from CAL FIRE Sprinkler said.

Home builders say they've constructed the lowest number of homes in each of the last two years since they began keeping records in 1955.

It's hard enough selling new homes in this recession, now mandatory sprinklers would boost prices even higher.

"On a per home basis, we're probably looking at $5,000 to $6,000 of increased costs once the mandate takes effect," Bob Raymer from the California Building Industry Association said.

Home builders say older homes are the problem, not new ones. Their numbers show the majority of home fires where a fatality occurred happened in residences built before 1952.

"We primarily feel it would be better dollars spent to focus on hard-wire smoke detectors into the existing housing stock," Raymer said.

But the state says their numbers show the extra cost is worth it. With almost half of the fire departments reporting to the state, 44 deaths occurred in homes without sprinklers last year, while no deaths occurred in homes with sprinklers.

There were far fewer injuries too: nearly 400 in homes without sprinklers; less than three dozen in homes with sprinklers.

"Our typical response times are anywhere from three to five minutes," Berlant said. "The sprinklers are really essential for homes because it's like having the fire department at your house 24/7."

There is virtually no chance to fight this new regulation. Once the sprinkler law was included into the national standard, California requires the state to follow.

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