The Santa Barbara City Council approved new requirements that most new construction-whether of homes, offices, or stores, and including remodels-must be equipped with fire sprinkler systems. The equipment might add to construction costs, fire officials argued, but it will save lives and properties. Most home fires take from two to four minutes to consume all surface area; current Santa Barbara Fire Department response time is from four to six minutes. The Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association (CTA) opposed the requirement, arguing it could add up to $7,500 to the cost of a new home. “If people don’t wish to have fire sprinklers, it’s their right not to have fire sprinklers,” said Lanny Ebenstein, of the CTA.
In response to cost concerns, fire officials wrote in several exemptions. For example, victims of the recent Tea and Jesusita fires will not have to install sprinklers when rebuilding their homes. In addition, fire officials relaxed the requirement for remodels. Initially, the new rules would have applied to any remodel involving 50 percent of the structure’s space. In the final ordinance-unanimously adopted by the City Council-it would apply only if 75 percent of the space were involved.