Commack residents have joined elected officials in pushing to have fire sprinkler systems to be installed in every home following the death of a Commack woman in January.
U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-Dix Hills, announced at the t that he has signed on as a cosponsor to legislation that would provide a federal tax incentive to property owners willing to install fire sprinklers in older buildings, following the tragic death of Kerry Rose Fitzsimons.
"Making it easier for property owners to install automatic fire sprinklers is commonsense and a policy we can all agree on. We have lost too many to house fires that could have been prevented," Israel said.
Fitzsimons was one of three Marist college students who died in a fire that tore through a student-rented, off-campus house on Jan. 21. The cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation while sleeping.
Maryanne Fitzsimons, Kerry Rose's mother, brought the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act currently before U.S. Congress to Israel's attention, asking him to support it. The bill aims to provide property owners with a federal tax incentive to install fire sprinklers in older residential or commercial buildings. Most small to medium-sized businesses would become able to fully expense the cost of retrofitting sprinklers for buildings as large as 50,000 square feet, when systems cost from $2,300 to $16,000.
"I miss my cousin Kerry terribly and support the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. They save lives," said Taylor Prodromakis, on behalf of th family.
Dominic Kasmauskas, a representative of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, said that nearly 3,000 people are killed by fires in the U.S. each year, nearly 80 percent of them in one or two-family residential homes.
The National Fire Protection Association concluded in a study that the death rate per fire could be reduced by 75 percent, property damdages by 68 percent by the installation of fire sprinkler systems.
"We are here to show our support to the congressman and support his bill," said Thomas McFadzen, chairman of the Commack Fire Department's Board of Commissioners. "We respond to these residential fires first hand. This would help and help us tremendously."
Under current law, California is the only state to require one- and two-family dwellings to have sprinkler systems, according to Kasmauskas. Maryland requires some residential dwellings to install them, while Pennsylvania and New Jersey have pending legislation that has been met with resistance.
Several members of the Fitzsimons family are part of Local 638, a Steam Fitters Union, a group of professionals who also help install fire sprinkler systems.
"This was a personal tragedy. As a union, you feel as if all workers are family and we lost one of our own, " said Dan Mulligan, a Local 638 representative and Fitzsimons family friend.
If the federal act is passed, Israel said it is expected to create 10,000 jobs and could lower the homeowner's insurance premiums by 5 to 15 percent with installation of a fire sprinkler system.