State: Fire sprinkler rule unenforceable

State: Fire sprinkler rule unenforceable

A rule requiring fire sprinkler systems be put in new apartment buildings has been deemed unenforceable by the state. This comes just six months after the Department of Safety and Professional Services decided to keep the rule.

It said new apartment buildings with three to 20 units have to have fire sprinkler systems installed. But state law says buildings with 20 or more units must have sprinklers. The three to 20 unit requirement was a state rule. Last month, the Wisconsin Builders Association challenged the rule, saying DSPS can’t enforce a rule that’s more restrictive than state law, based on 2011 Wisconsin Act 21.

“Disappointing. I really think that every firefighter in the State of Wisconsin should be disappointed, maybe even appalled,” Madison Fire Marshal Ed Ruckriegel said.

Ruckriegel says sprinklers put out a fire before firefighters arrive 95 percent of the time. The other five percent, they control the fire until firefighters get there to do their job. He says Madison firefighters respond to fires that are controlled or extinguished by sprinklers at least once a week.

That was the case on Tuesday when Fitchburg firefighters were called to Placon after a compressor exploded and caught fire. By the time they got there, the sprinklers had already put it out.

Ruckriegel says fire sprinklers cost about $2.50 per sq/ft to install.

“When you look at things like loss of companionship, loss of income, and the complete disruption of people’s lives, it’s a huge psychological toll and it’s forever. Can you put a value on it? I don’t think you can,” he said.

DSPS has asked for Attorney General Brad Schimel’s opinion. They won’t be enforcing the rule until they hear back.