It’s time to install home fire sprinklers

February 21, 2020

Unfortunately, Delaware suffered its first fire fatality of the year in the Bowers Beach area. This fire is still under investigation by the Delaware Office of the State Fire Marshal. Also, one Wilmington Fire Department firefighter was injured during a residential fire in Wilmington early one recent morning. Both events stand as reminders that residential fire sprinklers can protect lives and property.

Communities are moving ahead with residential development plans in 2020. Seaford is currently considering a zoning change request to accommodate 118 lots within the city. Hopefully their recently passed municipal fee update that provides incentives for residential sprinklers will prove to be popular.

Lewes has two new projects that have brought about unique approvals from their mayor and city council. Dutchman’s Harvest, a 140-unit project, has received a substantial discount ($375,000.00) on building permit fees. The project is billed as an affordable workforce development. Also, an 89-unit townhome project, Lewes Waterfront Preserve, has received waivers for building homes on dead-end streets in excess of the 200-foot limit currently in place. Some homes are planned for streets over 400 feet long which are dead ends.

Down by Fenwick Island State Park, the Old Mill Landing project for 227 new homes was approved by Sussex County’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Milton town officials are reviewing plans for additional phases of the Heritage Creek subdivision.

In New Castle County, the Bayberry Town Center project with 145 single-family attached dwellings is being reviewed by county officials.

All of these new projects bring to mind the ongoing conversation with Delaware fire companies about adequate staffing for responding apparatus and the increases in the demands for service. Delaware fire companies are stretched very thin now, with many relying on paid staff to respond in their districts.  

I have been following the water-quality conversation in Delaware as well for at least two reasons: because part of the groundwater concerns stem from the fire services’ use of firefighting foam in years past for training, and because of the amount of runoff produced when fighting working fires.

That runoff unfortunately contributes to either the local groundwater concerns within the fire district as the water and contaminants are absorbed back into the ground, or the impact on the local wastewater management system. Thus I found it curious to see that a Delaware water purveyor has applied to use Heron Bay in Lewes as a disposal location for septage, and a chicken processing company has applied to expand its wastewater spraying operations outside of Millsboro.

There have been plenty of comparisons of the water usage of residential fire sprinklers versus the flows of firefighting hoses, and sprinklers use considerably less water in every comparison. As Delaware has groundwater concerns throughout the entire state, every effort to lower the impact of contaminants leaching into the water tables should be considered, if not promoted and mandated.

Finally, as we use the purchase of kitchen countertop upgrades as a comparison to purchasing residential fire sprinkler systems, I found several advertisements for countertops in last Sunday’s paper. The best price that I could determine from these sales was $29.98 per square foot for a purchase of 50 square feet or less. Any purchase over 50 square feet reverted to regular pricing, which was not disclosed in the advertising nor on websites. As I have used $2 per square foot for an installation cost for sprinklers in Delaware, I’m thinking that the sprinklers are a better deal.   

Please watch for updates on National Fire Sprinkler Week, to be held the third week of May.

If you are visiting Delaware home expos this spring, ask about residential fire sprinklers. Please pass along any feedback you might receive from your inquiries.

Paul Eichler
Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition


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