Sprinklers could be mandatory for new Menlo Park homes

Four years after refusing to require new and remodeled homes toinclude fire-dampening sprinkler systems, city leaders are giving the idea a second look.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District is urging the city to require automatic sprinkler systems in all new houses, and in remodels of more than 50 percent of an existing house, particularly in homes with basements. All other areas in the district’s jurisdiction, including Atherton, East Palo Alto and unincorporated areas, have already adopted the requirements.

The Menlo Park City Council studied the proposed ordinance in September and expects to consider it later this year or early in 2008.

While proponents say sprinkler systems give residents enough time to escape a burning building and protect firefighters, opponents say it’s an expensive requirement that unfairly burdens homeowners for little additional protection.

It’s too soon to tell whether the new City Council will support making sprinklers a requirement.

“The science is clear — fire sprinklers save lives,” Mayor Kelly Fergusson said. “It’s a matter of, ‘how proactive does the jurisdiction wish to be?’”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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