PLAINFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Officials have determined the 6-year-old girl killed in a fire in Plainfield Wednesday night died from burns and smoke inhalation. Her death has been ruled an accident. The home did not have sprinklers. If it had, officials say they may have made a difference.
“Our opinion is that this may have been a different scenario if the house had sprinklers in it,” said West Haven Fire Marshal Keith Flood.
The house was built just a few months ago by Habitat for Humanity. It had at least one working smoke detector, but no sprinklers. Builders are not required to install sprinkler systems in single family homes. However, there is a rule that builders have to let buyers know they can put sprinklers in if they want to.
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Flood is chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Though houses in Connecticut don’t have to have sprinklers, the group is trying to change that. The coalition wants new houses to be required to have sprinkler systems, though it isn’t pushing to put them in existing homes.
Each sprinkler head sprays at least 15 gallons of water per minute in a fire, buying people time to get out.
“You have an 80 percent rate of getting out of a house fire with smoke alarms and sprinklers and only a 50 percent chance with smoke alarms alone, so there’s a big difference there,” said Flood.
The biggest problem is the cost. Larry Babbitt designs and installs sprinkler systems, following state and local fire codes. He says they start at about $5,000, but he says not having one can cost a lot more.
“How much of a value do you put on your family’s life? I lost two nephews. I know,” said Babbitt.
Babbitt’s nephews were killed in a fire almost 22 years ago. They were just 14 and 12 years old. That house didn’t have sprinklers, and Babbitt says they could’ve made a difference.
“Wherever the heat rises, normally it’s going to go right to the top. It’ll start protecting that area all the way to the doors to get out of the building,” he said.
That’s why fire officials like Flood are trying to change Connecticut’s codes.
“[A sprinkler system] allows people to get out of a building quicker and saves lives,” said Flood.
Flood says sprinkler systems can save money on homeowners insurance. It can also increase the value of a home.
The cause of the fire in Plainfield is still under investigation. Hospital officials tell News 8 the girl’s mother, Jeannette Lawyea is now listed in serious condition.