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Lewes City Council mandates fire suppression systems in all new homes

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

The city of Lewes is now the second municipality in Delaware to require fire suppression systems in all new homes.


The city of Newark has been a lone wolf in the first state when it comes to its strict requirements around fire suppression systems.


Now Lewes is joining them, the city council voted Monday night to require the installation of fire suppression systems in all new construction. Sprinkler systems were required in apartments previously, but now single-family homes and townhouses must follow the same rules.


Council member Andrew Williams says this new requirement helps protect the city as it continues to rapidly grow.


“As the county develops and Lewes continues to develop and we rely on a volunteer fire team, many of them are coming from outside the city and it’s more congested for them to get to fires therefore it’s becoming more and more dangerous for our residents,” said Williams.


Council members were all in agreement on the measure, save for Khalil Saliba, who thought the cost of these systems and the mandate they be installed was too much.


Saliba proposed an alternative to the mandate, instead requiring that new home builders watch a video about the benefits of fire suppression systems. That alternative was one supported by the Delaware Home Builders Association, But it didn’t garner support from the rest of council.


Council member Carolyn Jones recounted the time her family was caught in a house fire when she was a child.


“The fire happened so fast, that I am so, so sure that had we had a fire suppression system the water would have at least given us some time to get out of the house,” Jones said.


Jones says her father may not have sustained injuries trying to rescue her had a fire system been in place.


The new mandate goes into effect immediately, affecting all new home construction applications.


City manager Anne Marie Townshend says any applications already in the queue will be grandfathered into the old requirements, but council members urged the city to share information with those applicants about the benefits of a fire suppression system, to let them make their own decisions.


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

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.