To: Head of Fire Departments

Chief Timothy P. Travers
Chairman, Massachusetts Fire Service Commission

Date: December 1, 2004
Re: An Act Relative to Fire Safety

As of all you are new aware, "An Act Relative to Fire Safety" was passed into law on August 17, 2004, and is codified as chapter 304 of the Acts and Resolves of 2004. Among the many sections of this sweeping reform measure is the creation of

Section 26 G 1/2 of c.148 which requires every building or structure or portions thereof, of public assembly, with a capacity of 100 persons or more, designed or used as a nightclub, dance hall, discotheque, bar, or similar entertainment purpose, be protected throughout with an adequate system of automatic sprinklers, in accordance with the provisions of the state building code.

These retrofit requirements are a critical component in assuring the maximization of life safety in these establishments. In order to help facilitate this retrofit mandate, the legislature passed tax incentives and is working on developing a low cost loan program. However, one issue that was left unaddressed is the detrimental effect of high water hookup fees charged by the cities and towns which can pose a financial burden on the venues and ultimately have a detrimental effect on compliance with this vital fire safety measure.

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to approach your local officials having control over the water connection fees, to see if they would waive or otherwise reduce these fees to encourage compliance. The Commission is not suggesting the town waive any actual costs it incurs, only the additional permit fees, not related to costs, for permits to tie into the water system.

In my capacity as Chief of the Whitman Fire Department, I was successful in having the tie-in fees waived for these retrofit applications to encourage full compliance and reduce the financial burden on these venues.

I urge each and every one of you to take the time to approach your local officials to see if this could be accomplished in your jurisdiction. We have spent many years in reaching the goals we have achieved by passage of this non-partisan legislation which places Massachusetts in the forefront of fire safety around the nation. We must not let up now or become complacent. The lawmakers have given us the tools to make great strides in fire safety and each of us must see the implementation of this law through to its fullest. The lives and safety of the public are depending on each of us, and I am confident we will not fail them.

As always, thank you for all you have done and continue to do to assure the safety of the Commonwealth's citizens.