New York State
Association of Fire Chiefs

Providing Service to Those Who Serve


How Many People Must Die Before We Act?

A rash of tragic fires across New York state in the month of December underscores the need for home fire sprinklers.

Twelve peopled dead in the Bronx, four in Brooklyn, four in northern New York, an elderly man in the Capital District, a disabled woman in Westchester County, and more in central and western New York – all in December and all killed by home fires. Whether the fire occurred in a multi-family apartment building In New York City or in a house trailer near the Canadian border, these New Yorkers all perished needlessly.

Executive Director Jerry DeLuca of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs asks, “What will it take for New York to take fire safety seriously? How many people have to die for us to take action?”

This fall, as the nation watched Hurricane Irma strike Florida, many news stories made note of the fact that improved and enhanced building codes resulted in a reduced loss of property and ultimately in fewer lives lost. The homes and apartment buildings constructed in compliance with these new codes withstood the test of wind and rain brought on by Irma. These codes were implemented after 65 people died due to Hurricane Andrew.

DeLuca asks, “Why don't we put the same level of effort into ensuring that we adopt building codes to reduce and prevent the loss of life and property from fire?”  

While a single weather tragedy resulting in large loss of life and property is newsworthy, the cumulative impact of fire on lives and property is even larger. Is the loss of 12 people in one fire newsworthy enough to cause a change in building and fire codes that can save lives?

The New York State Association of Fire Chiefs has been advocating for home fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes for more than 30 years. The evidence is clear that fire sprinklers save lives. The elderly, disabled, and everyone else would have time to evacuate a home in the event of fire if sprinklers are in place. While all of these recent deaths were in older homes and would not be impacted by the proposed change in code to install home fire sprinklers in new construction, there are new tax benefits available to building owners to retrofit commercial buildings with fire sprinklers.

How many people must die before we act?