Bennet, Collins, Pascrell, Katko, Newman Introduce Bicameral Firefighter Sprinkler Safety Measure

New Bipartisan Tax Credit Will Help Protect Firefighters and Older Residential Buildings

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), and Marie Newman (D-Ill.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral 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 encourage building owners to install sprinklers in their structures erected before fire codes required sprinklers.

"Firefighters face grueling and dangerous conditions whenever they respond to a call — especially when the fire is in an older, high-rise building that may not meet modern fire codes," said Bennet. "Our bipartisan legislation would encourage owners of older high-rises to install sprinklers to modernize their properties. This change will save lives and support the firefighters who protect our communities every day."

“The annual cost of fires is enormous, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Americans and causing billions of dollars in property damage.  Fortunately, state-of-the-art sprinkler systems can help avert these tragedies by controlling and extinguishing fires, protecting firefighters, and saving countless lives,” said Collins.  “Our bipartisan bill would create a tax incentive for property owners to modernize their high-rise buildings and help better protect the community.”

“One of the most harrowing calls a firehouse can get is for a blaze in a pre-war high rise building,” said Pascrell. “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 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 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.”

"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 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."

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 U.S.

“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."