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City considers repealing sprinkler, fire alarm laws

The change would require fire alarms and sprinklers only in residential buildings with at least seven units

The Eagle-Tribune

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The board that administers building and fire regulations in Massachusetts is considering repealing a regulation requiring fire alarms and sprinklers in residential buildings with three to six units, over the objections of the state fire marshal.

The change would require the devices only in buildings with at least seven units.

“He’s one vote on the Board of Building Regulations and Standards and every time he tries to improve fire safety, particularly sprinklers, it’s him and the fire chief (against the rest of the nine-member board) and they go down to defeat,” said Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.

Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher also sits on the board and opposes the change.

A white paper prepared for the board examined whether alarm and sprinkler systems in buildings with three to six units are worth the cost, which the paper said can be as much as $27,450 for a building with three units. Eliminating the requirement would make housing more affordable, advocates of the change say.

Massachusetts does not require sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes, which is recommended by the National Fire Protection Code.

At a meeting of the board in September, Coan said there were more than 30,000 fires in three-to six-family apartment buildings in Massachusetts between 2001 and 2013, The Boston Globe reported in a story about the meeting. The fires caused about $320 million in property loss and resulted in 1,300 firefighter injuries, 700 civilian injuries, one firefighter death and 108 civilian deaths, Coan told the board.

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