Mokena Fire Deaths Highlight Recent Omission of Home Fire Sprinklers from Will County Building Code

In the early morning on June 11, a fire tore through a home in an unincorporated area of southwest suburban Mokena, killing an elderly couple before they were able to escape their home. In addition, a Mokena police officer was treated for smoke inhalation after trying to rescue the occupants.

Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, says the elderly victims fell in the high-risk category for fire deaths. In addition, the male victim used oxygen tanks and had mobility issues that prevented him from escaping.

“This fire is a tragic reminder of the need for fire sprinklers in homes. National studies have shown that people tend to feel the safest in their homes, however, homes are where the greatest fire risk is present,” says Lia.

In fact, the latest editions of the national model building codes from the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association require fire sprinkler protection in all new homes. In Illinois, nearly 100 communities have adopted these codes or similar fire sprinkler ordinances to protect residents from home fires.

In Will County, where Mokena is located, however, the Will County Board voted on May 15 to update to the ICC’s 2012 International Residential Code, but removed the requirements for fire sprinklers in new construction homes. That means that all new construction single-family homes and townhomes built in unincorporated areas of Will County, such as where this fire occurred, will lack the fire sprinkler protection that is now recommended by the nation’s top building code officials.

“It’s unfortunate that there will continue to be unnecessary fire deaths, such as today’s deaths, in Will County due to the decision by county officials to remove code requirements for fire sprinklers in new homes. They are literally putting people’s lives on the line,” states Lia.

 

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