Fire officials oppose bill exempting sprinkler systems on barns - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Fire officials oppose bill exempting sprinkler systems on barns used for weddings

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In recent years, barn weddings have soared in popularity, but firefighters say a new bill could make them dangerous.

Fire officials across the state oppose House Bill 228, because it would exempt barns from having to install sprinkler systems.

“If a couple of your friends got hurt or killed, you would feel awful," said Fern Creek Fire Marshal Joe Elstone. "And you would blame yourself, when in reality it's not your fault that those things weren't available."

Elstone says that scenario could become reality if the newly proposed bill becomes law.

“I just don't want to see something tragic happen,” he said.

The bill does not require sprinklers to be installed in barns that were previously used for agricultural purposes but are now being used for events like weddings.

“If something goes wrong, the reasonable degree of life-saving that most people expect in any building they walk into is not there,” Elstone said.

That includes fire alarms, exit signs, emergency lighting and, most importantly, sprinklers.

Elstone says people should be able to use their barns for weddings and any way they want, they just need to be safe.

“An event that's supposed to be happy and joyous and turns tragic, that would be awful,” he said.

State Representative Jim DeCesare, the bill's sponsor, says barn venues would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to install sprinkler systems, which would likely put them out of business. 

“I would hate to see this bill pass and then there be a tragic accident, and then somebody's going to have to come back and say, ‘Well, we made a mistake,’" Elstone said. "And unfortunately, it would be too late at that point."

Rep. DeCesare says he's trying to work with fire officials to find common ground and to keep his constituents happy.

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