Safest town in Illinois wants to be even safer

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Sunday, January 1, 2006

BRIDGEVIEW VILLAGE, Ill.--Now that he has helped his town obtain the distinction of "the safest municipality in Illinois," with the recent passage of the strictest fire codes in the state, Bridgeview Fire Chief Terry Lipinski is planning his next move.
"What I hope to do is go after people who rent out homes. I think we should require them to have sprinklers installed. As far as I'm concerned, they're running a business. That will be our next step," he said.
Bridgeview's journey to becoming the safest Illinois municipality started six years ago when Lipinski and Mayor Steven Landek successfully campaigned for a new ordinance to require sprinklers in remodeled homes, multi-family homes, condominium conversions and new commercial buildings.
"We stopped short of [other requirements]," Lipinski said "because we wanted people to get used to the idea of sprinklers." In mid-November, the Bridgeview Board of Trustees upped the ante, approving a new ordinance that requires all businesses, regardless of size, to retrofit with sprinklers before 2010. "Even a kiosk has to be sprinklered. If it's used for business it has to be sprinklered," he said.
In addition, all new single-family homes must be sprinklered and, further, all homes in the town's 1,000-home mobile park must be sprinklered if they are updated or improved. The latter requirement is the one that "put them over the top and made them the municipality with the strictest codes in the state," said Tom Lia, of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.
Lia's organization maintians a ranking of Illinois municipalities' fire codes.
Bridgeview is a 15,000-resident bedroom community, with a large commercial base as well. A new stadium, the future home to Chicago's major league soccer team, is being built here. "It's not just a residential town," Lipinski said.
The number of businesses was one of the reasons Lipinski and Mayor Landek pushed for stricter fire codes.
Another reason is that older homes are currently being torn down and replaced by two larger homes on one lot. Lipinski and Landek want these new homes to have up-to-date fire protection.