In no particular order, here are examples of fire sprinkler activations that have occurred over the past few months. For those doubting the necessity of these devices in new homes, pay close attention to the fire officials' statements in each anecdote:
Maple Ridge, British Columbia
Two recent home fires in this town had starkly different outcomes. Firefighters arriving to the first one reported heavy smoke and flames. They immediately performed an interior rescue involving a wheelchair-bound man and his daughter. Firefighters also had to rescue residents trapped on their balconies. During their efforts, a firefighter was injured and four occupants were transferred to the hospital. It took firefighters three hours and 24,000 gallons of water to control the blaze.
Firefighters responded to the second incident at a sprinkler-protected home. A single sprinkler kept the fire under control until the fire crews arrived. Fire damage was contained to the area of origin.
"The primary reason for the marked difference in outcomes of these two events was the presence of fire sprinklers," says Timo Juurakko, assistant chief with the City of Maple Ridge Fire Department. "No one can argue the difference that fire sprinklers make."
Firefighters responded to a call of a fire inside a first-floor apartment. When they opened the door, they encountered smoke, not flames. A stovetop, grease fire was immediately extinguished by sprinklers. The women living in the apartment and her friend were able to exit the building safely. "This could have been a major disaster," the town's Interim Fire Chief Gregory Goldberg told a local newspaper. "Fire alarms save lives, and sprinklers save lives and buildings."
Rapid City, South Dakota
The home of America's newest sprinkler coalition, South Dakota also witnessed a recent sprinkler save. A woman was frying chicken when the grease in the pan ignited, prompting her to try and smother the fire with a blanket. When that didn't work, she placed the burning pan in the sink. (Here are NFPA's safety considerations for cooking with oil.) Flames ignited the picture above the sink, which set off a single sprinkler. The activation resulted in minimal damage to her home.
"There was a heavy fire load surrounding the sink, and this had the potential to become quite devastating," says Jody Telkamp, administrative assistant with the Rapid City Fire Department and member of the South Dakota Fire Sprinkler Coalition.
Another cooking fire in an Elko home was stopped in its tracks by sprinklers. Since the damage from the fire was so mild, residents were able to vacate the home soon after the incident. "Had this building been an unprotected building, the fire would have likely caused severe damage to the building, displacing all of the residents (and) threatening the lives of the occupants," says Fire Marshal Joshua Carson with the Elko Fire Department.
Have you seen or heard of a sprinkler save in your community? Let us know, and we'll highlight it on this blog. Also, please make use of this handy document produced by the California Fire Sprinkler Coalition instructing you on how to communicate home fire sprinklers to the media.