Ralls Joining Other Fire Chiefs In Austin Asking Perry To Veto SB 1410
West U. Fire Chief Steve Ralls will join fire chiefs from around the state at a press conference today at 1 p.m. in Austin in front of the Governor’s Mansion. The purpose of the press conference is to call the public’s attention to residential fire safety and to encourage Texas Governor Rick Perry to veto Senate Bill 1410, which makes it impossible for municipalities to require residential sprinklers in new home construction.
Since the passage of SB 1410, Ralls has said that he believes the state should not interfere with the rights of city’s to regulate their own safety codes. The bill was passed less than a month after West U. City Council approved new building codes that required the sprinklers in new home construction.
“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.”
West U. Mayor Bob Kelly and Councilman George Boehme recently wrote a letter to Perry requesting he veto the bill. In the letter, Kelly and Boehme state that it is not the details of the ordinance that should be considered, but rather the right of municipalities to have local control. Kelly and Boehme said in the letter that local officials are best positioned to make local decisions.
“The fire sprinkler prohibition amended into SB1410 brings about a major shift in public policy with respect to public safety and home rule authority of local governments,” reads a handout outlining the press conference. “Nevertheless, the Texas Senate adopted this legislation having NEVER held a committee hearing on the subject of fire sprinklers. In fact, the complete prohibition of home fire sprinkler regulations under SB1410 was NEVER accepted by any committee in either house, and it was never offered for public comment.
The handout goes on to say that SB 1410 was advocated by the Texas Association of Builders, who many say don’t want to pay the additional cost of installing the sprinkler systems in new construction.
According to Ralls, it would cost about $2 per square foot to have the sprinkler systems installed. The average home in West U. is 4,000 sq. ft., making the average cost of a sprinkler system $8,000 per new construction.
The fire chiefs will be joined by other local officials, burn survivors and those who have lost loved ones to home fires. According to event planners, the press conference coincides with the one-year anniversary of the fire that almost destroyed the Governor’s Mansion.
“Ironically, the Governor’s Mansion was scheduled to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers, but the fire, which left the state with a repair bill in the tens of millions of dollars, occurred before the system was installed,” reads the handout.