California Assemblyman George Nakano (search) is sponsoring a bill that would mandate the installation of sprinkler systems in residential care homes that house up to six people.

The proposal was in response to a fire in a care facility two years ago that killed three elderly, bedridden patients.

But critics of the bill say while the intent is good, the cost could be fatal for the fragile residential care industry.

"Residential care providers who are serving the most indigent clients will absolutely be unable to afford this mandate," said Virginia Knowlton of Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (search)

Opponents argue that the cost could end up hurting older adults by leaving them with fewer places to turn to when they really need long-term care.

Even pet stores in California are required to have sprinklers, leaving supporters of the bill to question why nursing care facilities would balk at the cost of saving lives.

"What kind of values do we have, or what kind of values do these politicians have if they're going to place more value on a pet, or even on, you know, any other person in society, than older adults?" asked Dr. Jacqueline DuPont-Baum.

Advocates point out that the sprinklers will allow owners to offset the cost of installation with lower liability insurance.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by Fox News' Anita Vogel .