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(February 26, 2013) - February 20th marked the 10th anniversary of the tragic nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI that claimed the lives of 100 victims - a tragedy that could have been avoided if the venue had automatic fire sprinklers. To raise awareness on Capitol Hill about legislation that would encourage the installation sprinklers in existing structures, the Congressional Fire Services Institute and other national fire service organizations conducted a series of meetings on February 19th with members of Congress to advocate for the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA).

First introduced in 2003 in response to the Station Club fire, the legislation would create an economic incentive for building owners to retrofit their properties with fire sprinklers. While the legislation has not yet been reintroduced in the current session of Congress, CFSI and other organizations met with key members of Congress, including the bill sponsors, to discuss the need for Congress to act on this measure.  The sponsors expect to introduce the legislation in the coming weeks.   

Earlier this month, CFSI cosigned a statement with 13 other organizations following the tragic nightclub fire in Brazil that killed over 240 victims. Delivered to Capitol Hill, the statement expressed sympathy to the victims and their families, and reminded lawmakers that these types of tragedies can be avoided in this country if properties are properly equipped with automatic fire sprinklers. Once the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act is reintroduced in the House and Senate, CFSI will alert fire service leaders how they can advocate for this measure.

FSIA is a tax measure, and like all tax measures, it will be referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Congress is expected to consider a major rewrite of the tax code later this year. The key question is the scope of the rewrite and what provisions will be considered. On February 13th, the Ways and Means Committee announced the formation of 11 working groups composed of committee members. Each of the groups will review current law in its designated issue area and then identify research and compile feedback related to the topic of the working group.   During this process, CFSI and its partners will share information with the working groups on the justification for FSIA. CFSI will continue to issue updates on the status of the measure and advise when calls should be made to Congressional offices. As long as there remain so many large structures in this country not equipped with automatic fire sprinklers, our efforts will remain focused on this cause.

A ten-part documentary has been produced that chronicles the Station Club tragedy, featuring interviews with survivors, family members, first responders and others. The first episode can be viewed here. Anyone who watches the documentary should be moved by the stories shared by the survivors and others featured in the documentary and understand why we need to be vigilant about the threat of fire - whether in our homes, our schools, our offices or other structures. A special thanks to TYCO for sponsoring this series.