Sometimes I feel like the NFPA and prevention types would consider it anathema for a firefighter to fail to support, much less oppose, mandatory residential sprinklers. Of course sprinklers save lives and property. I also get the argument that they will save firefighters’ lives in this world of more and more common lightweight construction. Like a lot of firefighters, I disapprove of government mandates that lack a clear public purpose. More than one otherwise adamantly libertarian firefighter has hypocritically spoken up for residential sprinklers.
The counter argument is that these sprinklers are necessary in homes of lightweight construction, due to the rapid collapse times. That is true and I don’t argue it, but let me offer an alternative to the mandatory (and often unpopular) residential sprinkler code.
The fire service needs to tell people we will not fight their house fires if they choose to have their homes built in this fashion.
Controversial and unpopular, for sure. But is it any bigger a challenge than convincing people to spend all that extra money on a 13R system? Is it any more a threat to the chief’s job than telling council the truth that we cannot do our jobs in these buildings? Why are we putting all this time and effort into residential sprinklers when the real problem is lightweight construction? That connection is not readily apparent to the public, even after what short explanation they can digest.
We are killing ourselves to fight hopeless fires in cheap pieces of crap. Property is important and I am not an advocate of this idea that we should risk nothing where there is no life hazard. But if we are serious about fighting the scourge of lightweight construction then perhaps we should attack the actual problem and not one that seems unrelated even after cursory explanation.