Congressman Newman joins colleagues to sponsor firefighter sprinkler safety measure
The new bipartisan tax incentive legislation introduced in Congress will protect older residential buildings and also increase safety for the firefighters who fight those fires and protect the public
U.S. Reps. Marie Newman (D-IL-03), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and John Katko (R-NY-24) on Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021 introduced bipartisan legislation to help place more sprinklers in older high-rise residential buildings where fires are especially dangerous.
The High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act will amend the tax code to create a new incentive for building owners to install sprinklers in their structures erected before fire codes required sprinklers. Companion legislation in the upper chamber is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
“Our first responders make sacrifices every day to keep our communities safe. It’s on us to not only express our gratitude but ensure we enact legislation to make their jobs as safe as possible,” said Rep. Newman.
“By incentivizing the installation of fire sprinklers, we can save the lives of both building residents and firefighters. As the Representative for hundreds of heroic firefighters on Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs, I am honored to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will make their jobs safer and easier.”
“One of the most harrowing calls a firehouse can get is for a blaze in a pre-war high rise building,” said Rep. Pascrell, who is the longtime co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.
“While new buildings have proper protection, buildings constructed before sprinkler requirements present intensely dangerous challenges for firefighters and represent one of the biggest threats there is to fire departments. By tinkering with the tax code, our commonsense legislation will make give property owners a powerful incentive to modernize their buildings. This tax incentive will help save Americans’ lives and firefighters’ lives so what’s not to like?”
“I am pleased to introduce the High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act with Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Marie Newman. This bipartisan measure will incentivize building owners to install fire sprinklers in older high-rise residential buildings,” said Rep. Katko.
“Fire sprinkler systems have saved countless lives since they became a standard in high-rises, however, many older buildings still lack these lifesaving systems. Our commonsense measure will provide building owners with the resources necessary to improve the safety of their facilities, while also addressing a major hazard facing our brave firefighters.”
The current tax code treats fire sprinklers the same as plumbing and their costs are depreciated over 39 years. The High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act simply decreases this cost recovery to 15 years. The total cost of fire in the US is well over $328 billion and rising.
Fires in high-rise buildings (over 75 feet in height) claim the lives of many civilians and firefighters. The widespread adoption of fire sprinklers in the last 40 years is one of the elements that has led to an almost 50% reduction in fire deaths in the US.
“Short of a fire sprinkler mandate, a tax incentive for owners of existing non-protected residential high-rise buildings for the installation of fire sprinklers will greatly reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire event to lives and property,” said Peter Gibbons, USA Sprinkler Fitters Union.
“Fire sprinklers are available, affordable, and the installation is possible with minimal intrusion by qualified fire sprinkler fitters and licensed fire sprinkler contractors. This legislation when enacted is going to save lives,” said Shane Ray, President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.
“In the event of a fire, fire sprinklers are one of the most effective ways to save the lives of both civilians and firefighters. The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) strongly supports the High Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, which will make it more economical to install fire sprinkler systems in residential high-rise properties,” said Bill Jenaway, President of CFSI’s Board of Directors.
“Incentivizing installation of fire sprinkler systems will help to protect property and most importantly, save lives.”
“The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) enthusiastically endorses the High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2021,” said Jim Narva, NASFM Executive Director.
“NASFM unequivocally supports fire sprinklers, which have greatly enhanced fire safety, and are extremely effective life-saving devices, protecting both potential victims and first responders. The depreciation feature in this legislation will provide the impetus to retrofit high rise buildings with automatic fire sprinkler systems which will save countless lives. We applaud Representatives Pascrell, Katko, and Newman for their leadership in addressing this life-saving effort”
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