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Wisconsin officials can’t enforce fire sprinklers rule

August 17, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin officials say a state law prevents them from enforcing a sprinklers rule that fire safety officials say is one of the best ways to save lives.

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services spokeswoman Alicia Naleid told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the 7-year-old rule, which requires sprinklers be installed into new apartment buildings with between three and 20 units, is more restrictive than a state law approved in 2011.

The statute says state agencies can’t create regulations that are more restrictive than state law, which currently requires sprinklers only in buildings larger than 20 units.

“Until more formal guidance is given via (the) attorney general’s opinion, the Department of Safety and Professional Services will be enforcing the statute and not the more restrictive rules,” Naleid said in an email.

Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing said legislators need to address the issue and that rolling back the requirement is disheartening.

“As firefighters, we know that sprinklers save lives,” Rohlfing said. “When you look at a building and you think ‘What can I do for protecting that building and the people in it,’ the single most important component of that is a sprinkler system.”

Those who work with burn victims also said it saves lives.

“I think it’s a mistake and it puts lives at risk,” said Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. “It’s really going back in fire protection. ... People will die.”

The Wisconsin Builders Association has opposed the sprinkler rule because it increases construction costs.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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