Fire Chief Says State Shouldn’t Regulate City Code
West U. Fire Chief Steve Ralls is disappointed that with the passage of Senate Bill 1410, which makes West U.’s recently passed residential fire sprinkler requirement null and void. Ralls says it makes the West U.’s residents and firefighters less safe.
“We worked hard to get this passed, and the state comes in and basically takes it away from us,” said Ralls. “They did it under the guise of homeowners’ rights, and the state itself doesn’t even have a fire code or a building code, so essentially once you get outside a municipality, builders can build whatever they want to build. If the state is not going to have a code anyway, I don’t think they should have the right to take away from a city’s rights to decide how they want to build and the safety features they want to have in the homes.”
Ralls says those features include not only residential sprinkler systems, but electrical codes, smoke detectors and other safety devices. Homebuilders against the requirement cited the additional cost of installing the sprinkler system.
“Apparently the home builder lobby was successful in pressuring the House of Representatives into removing Texas cities ability to control its own local codes in this regard,” said West U. City Manager Michael Ross. “What’s next? Will our electrical codes, plumbing codes, building structural codes and smoke alarms be targets since they would also be considered inflationary by builders? The builders, and apparently the State Legislature, feel they know the price of a life or someone’s home.”
Ralls says the sprinkler system would have made West U. homes safer for both residents and firefighters.
“Fires that start now will burn until we get there and out them out where if they had the sprinkler they would be held in check or extinguished until we got there,” said Ralls, who added that many injuries are caused by people going back into a home after a fire is burning. “People see fires in movies and on television and think everything is good – you can hear the smoke alarm and get out. The truth is, in the middle of the night when the smoke alarm goes off, if it is indeed a fire, people panic and they immediately try to figure out what is going on and how to get their family out. They want to get back in and get things, and that’s what gets them hurt.”