This week, Hartford, Connecticut, firefighter Kevin Bell, 48, died after suffering critical injuries while battling a fire at a multi-family home. According to the Hartford Courant, Bell was searching the home when "fire conditions forced him to bail out of a second-floor window." Another firefighter suffered burns on 10 percent of his body, noted the paper.
The tragedy only seemed to underscore the importance of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, which officially launched a day later at the University of New Haven. (Coalitions now exist in 21 states.) More than 100 people attended the event, which brought together the state's fire service, elected officials, and fire safety advocates to express the importance of home fire sprinklers.
"The ultimate goal of the coalition is to move forward with legislation on a statewide level, or codes we can adopt on a statewide level, that require residential sprinklers in new, one- and two-family dwellings," said Keith Flood, fire marshal of the West Haven Fire Department and coalition chair.
State Rep. Stephen Dargan, a pro-sprinkler Connecticut legislator who chairs the Public Safety and Security Committee, offered some motivational words during the event in an attempt to make the coalition's goal a reality. "I need you as individuals ... to help me convince my fellow legislators ... to get sprinklers in homes," he said. (NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative offers advocacy tools aimed at convincing legislators that sprinklers are necessary.) "[Sprinklers] will cut down on the cost of lives" lost from house fires.
Highlighting the human impact of fire during the event was resident Gordon Plouffe, 52, who suffered burns on 40 percent of his body from a fire. "In 1982, I went from 250 pounds to 87 pounds" due to third-degree burn injuries, he said, adding that the cost of sprinklering a home would have been cheaper than the exorbitant bills over the years associated with his burn injuries.
Driving the sprinkler point home, the event's finale was a live burn/sprinkler demonstration. Flashover in the non-sprinklered structure occurred in less than two minutes. Assisting with the creation of the two structures were more than 80 students from the University of New Haven's Fire Science Club and Program. Goodwill donated the materials used inside the structure, and Home Depot gave a signicant discount on the lumber, said Nick Cantara, who chairs the school's Fire Education Committee and an on-call firefighter. Cantara hopes the burn demonstration showcased to other students in attendance just how quickly fire spreads and its impact on firefighter safety. "By the time a firefighter gets to a house fire, it's so involved that they sometimes can't make entry," he said.
Here are some additional photos from the event: