According to Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer 136 people died in fires in Michigan in 2018.
He says most of those deaths could have been prevented if homes were legally required to have sprinkler systems.
First responders in Midland agree with him. But some builders say mandatory sprinklers could increase construction costs and prevent families from building their dream homes.
Currently, single and double occupancy homes are not required to have sprinklers but apartments and businesses are.
The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition is a nationwide advocacy group that supports mandatory sprinklers. Video on it’s website shows what fires look like in homes with sprinklers and without.
Midland Fire Department Assistant Chief Josh Mosher warns how quickly fire can spread.
“Historically they say the fire doubles every 30 seconds,”Mosher says.
Midland Fire Marshal Tony Lelo says seconds matter. He says home sprinklers reduces deadly fire, smoke and gas.
“They can give you those life-saving seconds,” Lelo says.
But Jason Orvosh from the Home Builders Association says new homes don’t need them.
“The homes are required to have smoke detectors. So at the end of the day, we think that’s the safest way to get people out of the home,” Orvosh says.
Fire officials say over the past decade, they’ve repeatedly pushed legislation requiring sprinklers in new home construction.
But builders advocates like HBA fought against then and lawmakers voters voted no to the regulations.
Orvosh says the decision should be up to the homemaker.
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the numbers:
Scottsdale, Arizona adopted mandatory sprinkler regulations.
That fire department found the average loss in a building with sprinklers is $3,534.
It found the average loss in a building without sprinklers is $36,672.
Those who want mandatory sprinklers say it will cost the home owner $3,000 on average.
Those against the regulation say that would be more like $6,000.
Firefighters say working smoke detectors save 50% of lives, but sprinklers would save 80%.
HBA questions those numbers.
Orvosh says he isn’t against sprinklers but says if they are mandated less families will build new homes.
He is worried that could hurt jobs that feed off construction like plumbing, lumber and steel.
“There’s a lot of money that gets invested,” he says.
But Mosher says you can’t put a price tag on a life.
“If a sprinkler could have saved those lives, why aren’t we doing that? Why is there so much push back?” he asks.
Sehlmeyer says he will push regulation to make sprinklers mandatory when it’s time to rewrite the state’s building codes in a few years. He says you can make changes without it being legally required.
There could also be a financial incentive, saying your insurance will decrease.