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Fire sprinkler demonstration aims for change in Mass. building code

In an effort to build support for requiring sprinklers in homes, the National Fire Protection Association hosted a fire sprinkler demonstration on Moon Island Tuesday.

During the demonstration, two identically furnished side-by-side rooms were lit on fire. The room without sprinklers was fully engulfed in flames within three minutes, said association spokesman Tim Travers. In the other room, sprinklers were activated when the room reached 150 degrees, and the fire was extinguished within a minute.

The current building code, adopted by the state’s Board of Building Regulations and Standards, does not require fire sprinklers in newly constructed residential buildings. Through such demonstrations, the fire association hopes to bring attention to the need for them.

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“New homes and new home furnishings are burning faster than ever before,” Travers said. Full-dimension lumber is being replaced by pre-engineered wood beams in many newly constructed buildings, Travers added, and the sprinklers are needed to keep the beams from collapsing.

Two bills the association has filed with the state would, if passed, require sprinklers for all new home construction. One calls for requiring the sprinklers statewide, while the other is a “local option bill” that would allow policymakers in each town to make their own decision.

Fire safety advocates hope to protect the lives of homeowners and firefighters, Travers said.

Steve MacDonald, Boston Fire Department spokesman, said the sprinklers are a safety tool that helps protect the public.

“From our point of view, sprinklers certainly help contain fires,” he said. “They contain them until the firefighters can get in to extinguish them.”


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.