Letter to the Editor: With 18 fire deaths this year in Delaware, why are fire sprinklers not required?


Unfortunately, Delaware has now suffered 18 fire fatalities this year. No. 17 occurred in Kent County recently, as did No. 18 in New Castle County. Both fires are still under investigation by the Delaware Office of the State Fire Marshal.

All the fatalities occurred in unsprinklered occupancies. None of the occupancies was required to have a sprinkler system due to their age. However, please know that there have been at least four fires in residential structures throughout Delaware that were controlled by sprinkler systems that have occurred since late August. Fires in Newark, Rehoboth Beach, Bear and Dover all were controlled by the building sprinkler system and resulted in reduced damages.

A sad counterpoint to those that argue smoke alarms are enough to protect people: The 16th fire fatality in Delaware this year occurred in a dwelling that had activated, properly working smoke alarms. In all my years in the fire service, I have yet to see a smoke alarm or smoke detector flow any water to control or extinguish a fire.

Do not think for one second that the economic problems being endured have slowed down residential development in Delaware. And many of these being built are not “affordable housing” developments.

Unfortunately, the Delaware Preliminary Land Use Service land-planning review does not consider what the overwhelming growth does to Delaware emergency services providers. The fire and emergency medical services are already battling recruitment, retention and call volume challenges.

But these topics never come up with the state land use reviews. Please correct me, but I doubt these conversations take place at local planning and zoning meetings either. If they do, legislators should realize that building with residential fire sprinkler systems will address many concerns.

On a final note, as the Christmas season is underway, take a few minutes to look at the fire safety  video presented by the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.

Have a safe holiday season.

Paul Eichler

Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition

Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association Sprinkler Committee

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.