January 17, 2019
Legislative Update
Jan. 17, 2019

New Home Fire Safety Act
A vote of 5-0 move Sprinkler Bill to to next phase in Assembly

"52 Fire deaths in the state of NJ in 2018. We lost one citizen a week due to fire in the State of NJ and 80% of that, every single time, is in residential structures. We are 17 days into the New Year and we already have 6 reported fire deaths in NJ for 2019, well over the average from last year and all in residential properties...That is why we are here today."

That is how David Kurasz, Executive Director of the NJFSAB and PenJerDel Chapters of NFSA, opened his testimony in front of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee today (Jan.17, 2019) on Assembly Bill 3974. sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. The bill would require the installation of fire suppression systems in new single and two-family homes during the construction of the home.

Kurasz went on to explain that California and Maryland have already made this code mandatory and noted that "prices have not gone up and the housing market has not crashed in either of those states." He added, "Seventeen other states have adopted this on a municipal, village or county-wide level, so almost half of the nation has it some way shape or form. We are just looking to adopt what is in the national model code already."

The sponsor Assemblywoman Quijano was not in attendance due to illness but had her statement read into the record noting that, "Since newly constructed homes are often built with light weight and more flammable materials new homes tend to catch fire more quickly than older homes making fire suppression more important now than ever." Her statement concluded asking that the committee "approve this legislation that will undoubtedly save lives and limit the future loss of property by fire."

Testimony was also given in favor of the bill by a woman who lost her home a year ago to a devastating fire and spent 79 days in a hotel . "I lost 25 years of everything my husband and I had built together in our home. It took no time for my house to literally burn to the ground. I suffer from a disability and my home was my safe haven, and I still don’t have that safe haven. It is very hard to to think about not being able to go HOME."

More than a dozen testimonials from around the Garden State collected by NJFSAB as part of a growing coalition of community, fire safety and business supporters were read into the record as in favor of the bill. Statements in favor of the bill were also provided by the FMBA, IAFF, Sprinkler Fitters Local 696, Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 and Sprinkler Fitters Local 669.

Rich Silvia of the Bergen County Fire Prevention and Protection Association drove home the dramatic statistics about new home fires, noting they burn 800 times faster and are 40 times more toxic than legacy homes. "We have to look at these fires from a different viewpoint now. I have to look at my men’s protection knowing that could that building collapse within 3-5 minutes of our arrival on that scene and question do I want to risk my personnel’s lives to go in there or do I have to hold them out."

Silvia closed the hearing with a powerful statement: "I have Been doing this for 31 years, and now I am asking you to please help us do our job and pass this legislation to help save the citizenry of the State of NJ and firefighters of NJ who put our lives on the line every single day."

After several questions from the committee, they voted 5-0 to move the bill to the Assembly for further consideration. The same bill is being sponsored in the State Senate as Bill 2539 and is sponsored by Senator Teresa Ruiz.

The "New Home Fire Safety Act," would supplement the "State Uniform Construction Code Act" P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.). The bill would not apply to manufactured homes, or to any single and two-family homes that are not connected to public water systems.

For more information about this bill or to become part of the coalition, contact NJFSAB at 866-226-6006.
NJFSAB | 866-226-6006| NJFSAB.org