Buildings with recent fatal fires lacked sprinkler systems

(Western Mass News photo)

A father and two toddlers lost their lives in a fire Sunday and today, a man was killed in a quick moving fire in the Three Rivers section of Palmer.

We will never know if sprinklers could have spared these lives, but it may have slowed down the fire from spreading.

"I saw more or less a fireball. The second to third floor was engulfed," said David Stevenson of Palmer.

Four lives have been lost in two apartment fires this week in western Massachusetts.

In both buildings, sprinkler systems were not installed.

"The value and importance of sprinklers cannot be underestimated," said Dave Lafond with the National Fire Sprinkler Association.

Lafond told Western Mass News that sprinklers are critical in controlling a fire before it spreads.

"The sprinkler is usually activated around 30 seconds into a fire," Lafond added.

This Palmer building was built in 1890, long before the advent of sprinkler technology.

"If it was built prior to the building code, there would not have been a requirement to sprinkler the building. If they did major upgrades, or major renovations, it may have been required," said Bonny Weeks, Palmer's building inspector.

Palmer's building code went into effect in the 1970s.

"A lot of these buildings are just older and have not been, had major renovations in them," Weeks added.

In Springfield, if an older building undergoes a renovation that is 33 percent of the building's value, a sprinkler system would need to be installed.

That was the case for the apartment building on Belmont Avenue.

Some worry about the cost. Homeowners can often recoup some savings after installing sprinklers.

"Depending on the insurance carrier, we find anywhere from 5 to 20 percent discount on your policy," Lafond said.

Some contend that the cost of sprinklers is out of reach.

"The cost I see is roughly one to two percent of total home development," Lafond explained.

However, more importantly, "how much does a life cost?" Lafond said.

In Massachusetts, 216 people have died in single family homes or duplexes between 2006 and 2015.

None of those dwellings had sprinklers.

Fire prevention is the best first line of defense, but again, sprinklers can help in slowing down the spread of the fire.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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