Consider sprinkler systems for fire protection

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On March 14 the Lost Acres Fire Department responded to the report of a house fire on Loomis St. The fire department found a working house fire, and the structure suffered heavy damage. Mutual aid was requested and the fire was dealt with. The dispatcher and her trainee did a great job of coordinating the fire response with our neighbors but additionally dispatching the police and numerous EMS calls during that time, not to mention calls for service, downed wires and whatever else happened in town that day.

I am not writing this article about the fire; my article has to do with developing a cultural change in the building construction features of residential and commercial properties in town. I have lived in town for more than 35 years. I am a lifetime member of the Lost Acres Fire Department and was elected to the rank of Chief of Department before I retired.

Over the last few years, fire service—state wide—has taken a hit as far as membership is concerned. Some departments are adequately staffed, some not so well. Our neighboring fire departments are volunteer, just like us, and at any given time, day or night, there may not be enough staffing to be able to respond.

All of us—Lost Acres, Simsbury, East Hartland, Granville, Southwick, Suffield, and East Granby—have the same issues, a potential lack of staffing for these types of emergencies in our towns. Builders say that it is too expensive to install an operating sprinkler system in new construction. I believe that for new construction, the cost is around $1 per sq. foot of building, so a 2,500 sq. foot building under construction would cost an additional $2,500. This would be less than what most new home buyers will pay for kitchen counter tops.

An operating sprinkler system has the potential for possibly saving or at least minimizing the fire damage in any occupancy—residential and commercial. This can be done in town because it has already been done. Planning and Zoning changed the Zoning Regulations for any new construction on Case Street. All new construction there will have a residential sprinkler system installed. In the case of a structural fire, an operating sprinkler head could give the fire department, once it gets on scene, the time to gain control of the fire and prevent its further spread. In the case of fire, Time Is the Enemy.

That being said, I would like all of the town agencies involved in the decision-making process with regards to the future growth in town, to sit down together, put politics and other interests aside, and change the way they think about the folks who live, work and play in our town.