On June 19, less than a day after the Sofa Super Store fire killed nine Charleston firefighters, Chief Rusty Thomas was asked if sprinklers would have helped with the fire. He said yes. But when he asked if sprinklers would have saved the lives of his men — barely able to hold back tears, he couldn’t respond.
In the weeks after the event, Charleston’s water system was rightly taken to task by the Post and Courier for its flagrant over-billing for sprinkler fees in order to underfund other water system costs. Residential customers would likely have been overjoyed to see businesses footing the bill, but the tragedy underscored that there is a larger imperative than a few dollars off the water bill.
Now, similar water systems are blocking a statewide bill that would encourage business owners and residents to instal sprinklers.
Some local governments are worried they will lose money because the proposal limits what they can charge to install fire sprinkler systems.
Senator Greg Ryberg says the local governments have used fees tied to installing and maintaining sprinkler systems to expand water systems to new customers.
If communities are allowed to continue making installation of these systems cost prohibitive to business owners and developers, they too should be held responsible when the next tragedy strikes.