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PTC Council to revisit fire dept. request for mandatory sprinklers

A proposal to require fire sprinklers in all new single family residences may soon be considered again by the Peachtree City Council.

The fire department is recommending that fire sprinklers also be required for homes which are undergoing renovations or repairs equivalent to 50 percent or more of the home’s existing value.

Such requirements were eliminated from consideration in March 2008 when the city adopted an ordinance requiring sprinklers in all new residential construction (except single family homes), new commercial properties larger than 5,000 square feet and places where live entertainment is provided.

The fire department’s new proposal also would be triggered if the home is converted to a business such as a children’s or adult day care, or any business “that would introduce a more potentially dangerous environment for the occupants,” according to the proposal.

Fire Marshal John Dailey said the main impetus for the recommendation has been the change in residential building materials which hold up well unless there’s a fire.

Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth pointed to a fire several years ago in the Ardenlee subdivision that was a good example of the problems wrought by new construction techniques. The house collapsed prematurely and caught fire crews by surprise, he said.

“Twenty years ago that house would have burned for another half hour,” Eiswerth said.

Dailey said the cost of adding fire sprinklers to an existing home is comparable with replacing new carpet, adding a whirlpool tub and other home improvements.

Mayor Don Haddix noted that if his home were retrofitted with sprinklers it would “cost me a fortune.”

“That’s the reason it got shot down before,” Haddix said.

Dailey noted that modern fire sprinkler systems activate only on those sprinkler “heads” near the fire and it is extremely rare for there to be any malfunction.

He also noted that the water damage from fire sprinklers would not exceed that from firefighters who use a fire hose to douse flames.

Dailey noted there was a bill in the state legislature that would negate any of the proposed changes, as homebuilders are lobbying against requiring sprinklers for new homes.

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