New Paltz considers requiring fire sprinklers in new housing

New Paltz Village Fire Chief Cory Wirthmann, who also works as a fire and building inspector for the municipality, shared his views on residential fire sprinklers at the January 9 joint meeting of town and village boards. A law requiring them in new construction is now under consideration, and Wirthmann would also like to see them added to rental buildings when significant renovations are made.

Having sprinklers “doesn’t take [firefighters’] place,” the chief explained; rather, they increase the chance that residents will get out safely before help even arrives. Reducing rescues saves lives not only of those residents, but also potentially of firefighters themselves. On the other hand, since modern sprinklers also trigger alarms when activated, Wirthmann anticipates that more calls would actually result.

Building sprinklers are activated by heat, and only pump out enough water to make those safe exits possible. More is used in the hallways and near entrances, but it’s not necessarily enough to extinguish the fire. “We come in and finish the job,” Wirthmann said.


Already required in commercial buildings, the cost of adding sprinklers is now considered affordable enough to be mandated where people sleep. Presumably that calculation has been based on purely economic factors; the chief noted that “it’s hard to value human life” regardless of the cost. With current technology it wouldn’t even result in visible pipes and sockets to add them to new or existing buildings, and with insurance premium reductions the cost would be offset over time with those savings.

In the village core, and other portions of the town with higher population density, there is a high level of student occupancy, as students are not all required to live on campus. Wirthmann pointed out that student housing in particular is a concern because landlords generally don’t live on-site and may not even live in the community. Trustee William Wheeler Murray, himself a firefighter, is hopeful that in addition to new construction, owners of existing rental properties might eventually be required to add sprinklers.

According to Wirthmann, such a requirement might be triggered by renovations of 50% or more, for example. The cost of such retrofitting is no longer prohibitive, he noted. Such determinations are made by building inspectors, not property owners. Council members and trustees would have to decide on the precise threshold. The existing village rental registry — which may soon be mirrored in the remainder of the town — could be used to identify the rental units.

Supervisor Neil Bettez made it clear he is in favor of requiring sprinklers, saying that it is in keeping with a town building code which is based upon safety. Deputy Mayor KT Tobin liked using a 50% threshold, as it’s already a trigger for other safety measures in state code, such as hardwired smoke detectors.

There are 12 comments

  1. new paltz land lord

    insane idea, will raise rents. Land lords pay more than rents go up. Foolish Liberals make these insane laws against business and wonder why rent is so high.

    Go ahead make more regulation, expect higher rent, very simple….

  2. church st. property owner

    great! so i assume the town will be paying for the installation? after all, no one complains more about “unfunded mandates” than local municipal councilpersons and trustees. and in that case theyre spending taxpayer money. not even their own!

  3. R. Kurt Bruce

    How come the village fire commissioners haven’t paid house-numbers on curbs in white paint for the law requiring such as to be used by the fire-county-command center?

  4. new paltz land lord

    Prepared to raise rents each time tax goes up or any regulation adds cost simply passed on to my tenants.

    I’m in business to provide good clean housing for a profit, i dont work free and more cost/regulation from new paltz will cause a rent increase to tenants, guaranteed.

  5. taxpayer

    We can all thank Mayor Tim Rogers for making New Paltz more expensive for every landlord and tenant. There are approx 7000 people living in the village and he got voted in by less than 400 votes. LESS THAN 6% OF THE POPULATION. Are we going to vote for him again?

    1. Villager 17

      Question is: Why have a village municipality at all? A simple resolution put before the village voters by the village board means you can dissolve the entire municipality under State precedence. Villages are not required to exist in any county, only Towns are.
      As to the students on campus, first one to bribe them for their votes wins. There’s local precedence for that even in the last election for what’s-her-face?
      Anyways, the current mayor already announced weeks ago he wasn’t running for office again? Here’s your chance.

      1. npz resident 65 years

        Village govt within a Town district provides a very special designation of representation and remains a beautiful thing.

        New Paltz has always had a Village and hopefully always will, it makes New Paltz special.

        i remember the Village Police dept of New Paltz was separate from Town as a child growing up.

        1. Son of Villager 17

          I remember the black-face minstrel shows on stage at the old Village Hall. You can see the photographs of the players entertaining at the new Village Hall.
          You think I’m kidding? Nobody can make up thant, no pun intended.

  6. Sad New Paltz Resident

    Communist scum within our own ranks I see.
    When will the madness stop.

    When will real leadership unafraid to address what needs to be done arise?

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