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Politics & Government

Lewes considers requiring fire sprinklers in new homes

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Newark is the only city in Delaware that requires new homes to be built with fire sprinklers. Now Lewes is considering joining them.


Most cities and towns copy their building codes from international standards, which lay out thousands of guidelines to ensure building safety.


But in many places, the requirement that new homes have sprinkler systems installed is excluded. Newark is the only city in Delaware requiring them.


The Lewes City Council held a public hearing this week to decide if they should join Newark.


Paul Eichler is the chairman of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition. He says the large homes being built around the city only amplify the dangers of a house fire.


“And as much as we wanna have the conversation with regards to a person's home is their castle, and the right to do everything, No-one has the right to impact their neighbor as a result of having a fire,” he said.


Eichler adds while sprinkler systems might add to the cost of a new home, housing prices are already expensive in Lewes, and the small addition of a sprinkler system won’t burden a homebuyer.


Resident Debra Evalds says the decision is simple.


“Is the mayor and the council’s duty to keep down home costs on new homes here in the city,” saids Evalds, “or is it to protect the citizens and the firefighters who respond to these fires?”


According to the National Fire Protection Association, the presence of home sprinklers significantly reduced the death and injury rate of firefighters and victims, and were highly effective in preventing the spread of home fires.


Opponents say installing these systems may be difficult in Lewes, where most new homes are unique, and would require highly customized systems.


City Council will consider the proposal at its next meeting in mid-September.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.