Fire Cisterns, Sprinkler Regulations Discussed at Planning Board

The town will see an update to the Land Development Control Regulations (LDCR) to bring its policies on fire cisterns and sprinkler systems in line with state regulations.

Fire Chief George Klauber appeared at the Jan. 15 meeting of the Planning Board to discuss the changes.

Klauber told the board and television audience that the state legislature has changed the regulations for sprinkler systems in one-and two-family buildings. Klauber said in Derry’s regulations a sprinkler system is an “allowable option” for Derry builders but the town cannot mandate sprinklers. The policy, he said, is that cisterns are required and if a developer doesn’t want to put in a cistern, a sprinkler system is an option.

The state regulations prohibit towns from mandating sprinklers, he said.

Klauber said to be consistent with the state, the town regulations were shortened, with Planning Assistant Elizabeth Robidoux making the changes.

There are no substantial changes in the town policy, Klauber said, including language changes and “tightening up.” One change he noted was taking out language referring to specific cisterns. “The products are changing, the materials are changing, they are constantly moving forward,” he said, noting that piping was all steel a few years ago but is now made of everything from Fiberglas to PVC pipe. Instead of a detailed description, the issue will be “if they come up, one which meets our specifications.” The Fire Department will review the cisterns on an individual basis, Klauber said.

Klauber said sprinklers come in two varieties, 13D, Domestic, and 13R, Residential. Chairman David Granese asked what the difference was and Klauber said a Residential sprinkler will sprinkle the whole house, in event of a fire, and a Domestic sprinkler will sprinkle a specific area such as the kitchen or dining area.

Many developers are now opting for the sprinklers for cost reasons, Klauber said. “For a two-story single-family Colonial of 2,200 square feet, a sprinkler system is $5,000, and a cistern is $7,000 to $8,000,” he said.

Board vice-chair John O’Connor was curious about the rule that a cistern must not be more than 1,000 feet away from the home. “Does that mean 1,000 feet to the mailbox, driveway or house?” he asked.

Klauber said it was 1,000 feet to the property line and is in line with the National Fire Protection Association’s requirement that fire apparatus have 1,000 feet of hose from the water source to the fire. “It doesn’t lay flat,” he said of the hose, “so it’s still not perfect.”

Board member Randy Chase, who is also a Derry firefighter, observed, “A thousand feet from the lot line is all well and good, but if the nearest house is still 800 feet away, it creates a problem.”

While it makes sense to have the cistern in the middle of a development, especially a large development, Chase said it’s difficult for firefighters and the homeowners they protect if the cistern is 1,000 feet away from the edge of the development lot line. And by 2,000 feet down the road, the cistern is usually empty, he said.

Klauber sketched the process: a truck at the cistern, another truck 1,000 feet down the road, a truck in the driveway and a tanker closer to the house, with hand lines using water from the truck.

“It is more than spraying water,” Chase said, adding that firefighting is choreographed “like a ballet.”

Klauber volunteered to get a better definition of the 1,000 feet and to bring it back to the Planning Board. The board agreed to revisit the issue at its Feb. 5 meeting, vote on it, and hold a public hearing later in February.