Fire sprinkler ordinance just makes sense

The process of making the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems into a main-stream feature of newly built homes in Camas has been a slow process.

Way back in July 2002, when the Clark County Parade of Homes was held at Holly Hills Estates on Prune Hill, just one of the dozen high-end homes that were part of that popular annual event included a residential fire sprinkler system. At the time, the builder touted it as being a unique selling point.

Further illustrating the overwhelming resistance to any efforts to require the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems, less than a year later the Camas City Council voted down an ordinance that would have done just that. Instead, the elected leaders favored promoting the education of builders, realtors and consumers about the benefits of residential fire sprinkler systems.

But 13 years and what amounted to a tremendous effort by local fire prevention officials later, the tide has changed. Last night the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring that fire sprinkler systems be installed in all new one- and two-family residential homes built in Camas.

While the ordinance makes it official, the change in mentality and in the municipalities’ regulations have been evolving during the past decade.

According to Chief Nick Swinhart, right now under the city’s code residential fire sprinklers are installed in 90 percent of new construction in Camas. There are 2,000 homes currently equipped with the systems.

Back when the issue came up in 2003, and again this time around, there was some push-back from factions including the local building industry association. One of the primary arguments being that the cost may prevent some from being able to afford a new home.

However, real life examples show that this is just not the case. During last night’s public hearing on the issue, one local resident in favor of the ordinance said the systems’ installation in his $280,000 home built in 2015 cost a little more than $2,000. He added that a subsequent reduction in insurance premiums will allow him to recoup the cost of those sprinklers within just a few years.

While an exorbitant cost may have been a valid argument decades ago, at residential fire sprinkler systems’ current price point the protection they provide clearly far outweighs any shortsighted arguments.

For the health and safety of Camas residents and their property, and the protection of firefighters, a requirement that fire sprinklers be installed in all newly built one- and two-family homes in Camas just makes sense.