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Should fire sprinklers be installed in new homes?

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Should fire sprinklers be installed in new homes?
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Supporters say it's the safest option out there, but is it really? Next week, the State Building Codes Council could vote to require fire sprinklers be installed in all newly built homes. But opponents say it's too expensive and no more effective than a smoke alarm. YNN's Geoff Redick has the story.

LATHAM, N.Y. -- These men are building a new home just to burn it down.

"Today, we're doing a demonstration burn. We're going to do a side-by-side burn of two furnished rooms. One is going to be sprinkled, one is going to be un-sprinkled," said FASNY President James Burns.

The State Firemen's Association sponsored Tuesday's burn to highlight an issue on the rise in New York: Whether fire sprinklers should be required by law in all new homes.

Burns said, "Oh, I know it can save lives. It can save lives and property."

Consider this: In Tuesday's controlled demonstration, a trash fire in a mocked-up room became a deadly inferno in 90 seconds. But in the sprinkler protected room, the trash fire stays almost entirely in the garbage can.

"It's a three walled room, which is not reality. The amount of oxygen that's flowing into the room is, of course, going to make the fire go up faster," said Lew Dubuque, New York State Builders' Association.

Dubuque's problems with Tuesday's demonstration don't end there. The VP of the State Builders Association also believes sprinklers are no safer than smoke detectors.

"They say it's about safety, but it's not, because a person is going to hear a smoke alarm go off and they're going to get out of the house," Dubuque said.

And there's the cost. The Firemen's Association says sprinkler installation is just one or two percent of the cost for a new home. But the Builders' Association calls it $10,000 to $20,000. Still, no one is debating whether sprinklers are a good thing.

Dubuque said, "We don't oppose fire sprinklers. We oppose mandating them on New Yorkers."

But the argument for mandating them may be going up in smoke.

The State Fire Prevention and Building Codes Council is set to meet next Wednesday and could decide whether to mandate sprinklers in all new homes. However, last time the council met, they did not vote on the sprinkler mandate. The State Builders Association says it expects another delay this time.

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