South Carolina firefighters urged legislators Tuesday to uphold a construction code requiring that new homes be equipped with fire sprinklers in a debate that pits safety against cost.
They urged senators to defeat a bill, pushed by the Home Builders Association, that would block enforcement of the building standard adopted earlier this year. The House passed similar legislation two weeks ago.
Firefighters say the sprinklers will save lives and reduce the cost of injuries and property damage, while home builders argue it will put the price of homes out of the reach for tens of thousands of families statewide and kill economic recovery.
Mark Nix, executive director of the builders' group, said homeowners should be able to choose whether they want to pay extra for sprinklers. "If they want one, we'll put it in," he said.
The argument is reminiscent of the group's fight against smoke alarms in new homes 25 years ago, said John Reich, deputy director in the State Fire Marshal's office.