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Residential Fire Sprinkler Ordinances Flourishing This Year In Illinois

Already ahead of the pace in 2009, this year looks to be another successful one for communities passing NFPA 13D residential fire sprinkler ordinances. Earlier this year in January, we reported passage of the first downstate residential fire sprinkler ordinance in Normal and since then there has been a flood of others following suit.

Fire Chief Craig Whyte from the Burlington Fire Protection District has been a proponent of fire sprinklers for many years, conducting numerous side-by-side demonstrations to display the effectiveness of fire sprinklers. With his assistance, the district’s Board of Trustees passed a 13D ordinance in April.

The Village of Riverwoods also successfully passed its own 13D ordinance in April. Like the Burlington Fire Protection District, Deputy Chief Rob Ugaste educated village officials through the use of a live side-by-side demonstration, along with the addition of surveys. Although there was misinformation presented by some anti-sprinkler advocates, he attributes the successful passage of the ordinance to the village board’s integrity and ongoing commitment to a safer community.

May was the most successful month as residential fire sprinkler ordinances were passed in Wilmette, Aurora, and Forest Park.

The residential fire sprinkler ordinance in Wilmette was the first of its kind in Illinois because it addressed concerns with the structural integrity of lightweight construction during fires. The ordinance requires fire sprinklers in all new homes that are being built with lightweight construction. The village also passed a fire sprinkler ordinance for new commercial buildings, regardless of square footage. (See story: “Wilmette Passes Fire Sprinkler Ordinance Due to Concerns with Lightweight Construction.”)

Aurora’s new ordinance requires fire sprinklers in new houses with first-floor living space of 5,000 square feet or greater, or remodeling projects that pertain to at least half of the building in question. In conjunction with the residential ordinances, the remodeling clause also pertains to commercial buildings, along with an ordinance for fire sprinklers in new commercial buildings 5,000 square feet or greater.

The Village of Forest Park’s 13D ordinance came about when the village upgraded to the 2009 International Building Code, which requires fire sprinklers in all new construction of one- and two-family homes, regardless of square footage.

St. Charles was the most recent addition to the 13D communities with the passage of its ordinance in July. The ordinance calls for installation of fire sprinkler systems in all new townhouses and one-and two-family homes as of January 1, 2012. Leading up to the enforcement date and effective immediately, aldermen also implemented a mandatory option ordinance that requires homebuilders to present their clients with information about fire sprinklers, allowing them to make the decision whether or not to install fire sprinklers.

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