Fire Sprinklers Save Lives–And Firefighters

Where is our leadership on the issue of having residential fire sprinklers installed in all new single (SFD) and multi-family dwellings (MFD)  in the USA?  Why hasn’t every State Fire Marshal Office in the country produced a video like this one:

Why, when the budgets of fire departments nation-wide are being gutted, firefighters are being laid off, and fire stations are being closed, are we not doing more to get fire sprinklers as a requirement for SFD’s and MFD’s, the occupancies where the fire deaths and injures are most likely to happen.  The same occupancies where the majority of firefighters continue to die and become injured annually.

More importantly, why do we–Yes, WE in the fire service–continue to view residential sprinklers as a “threat to our way of life” rather than as the only true lifesaving weapon in our battle against fire?  Why do we keep pursuing better equipment and protective clothing and SCBA to fight fires in dwellings that become more hazardous to our health and safety every year?


“While teaching a building construction class a few years back, I discovered many of the attending fire officers did not have any idea about the dangers associated with lightweight construction (LWC) when involved in fire.” Dangers of Lightweight Construction

“To unequivocally state that nothing has changed in buildings, occupancies, fire flow delivery rates and demands for increased proficiencies of our firefighters, company and command officers is absurd, ignorant and dangerous.” A Delicate Balance

ELLSWORTH, ME — New research by a Blue Hill scientist shows that during a fire, firefighters are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals created when commercial flame retardants burn (Maine Sun Journal). Exposure to flame retardant chemicals means firefighters face higher cancer risk than previously thought 

(For a web poster describing the entire study, go to

We keep coming up with ways to go in while developers and contractors keep coming up with ways to drive us out.  I think we need a new approach.

Residential fire sprinklers are the only “firefighters” that are available, on-scene, and ready to work at the start of a fire event, 24/7/365.  Why are we not “trumpeting” these key facts to the public and our own people:

  • Residential fire sprinklers increase the “window of time” available to you and your family to safely escape from your home in the event of a fire.
  • Residential fire sprinklers increase the length of time before a fire can reach its flashover phase, thus reducing the risk of injury or death to responding firefighters.
  • Residential fire sprinklers can reduce the amount of fire damage because the fire cannot grow beyond its point of origin in most cases.  (Water damage from fire sprinklers can be substantially reduced by our actions as firefighters).

Lots of questions for sure.  So what are you doing to provide the answers in your department?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].