Senators weigh bill requiring high rises to install automatic sprinklers

A bill requiring public high-rise buildings to install automatic sprinklers passed through its first Minnesota Senate committee Wednesday.

The Senate Labor and Industry Policy committee approved the bill that would require all qualifying buildings to install the automatic sprinkler systems by 2033.

"It is a long time out," said State Sen. Kari Dziedzic of the 2033 deadline. "We’re hoping they move quicker, but it was a balancing act in picking a date."

Dziedzic, a Democrat, is the sponsor of the bill. It stems from a 2019 Thanksgiving fire in a Cedar-Riverside high rise that left 5 dead and four others injured. The cause of the fire was "undetermined." 

State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said automatic sprinkler systems would have contained or extinguished the Thanksgiving fire. A 2020 report made the same determination. 

The fire started in an apartment on the 14th floor of a high-rise apartment building in Cedar-Riverside and it spread to the hallway.

"The fire started accidentally, soon growing to mammoth proportions," said Smith to the Senate committee Wednesday. "In some cases, impossible to escape. This disastrous fire would have been contained, extinguished by an automatic sprinkler system."

A total of 26 buildings in Minneapolis would be affected by the bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be the next body to take up the bill.