On May 5, 2014, a fire in a single-family home in Riverdale, Illinois, led to the unfortunate death of Dedra Matthews, who lived in the community for 12 years. The fire was less than a block from the firehouse.
That same year, Riverdale officials adopted a sprinkler ordinance in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Fire Chief Robert Scharnhorst proposed the code upgrade to Mayor Lawrence Jackson. Following Jackson’s recommendation to Riverdale’s Village Board, the ordinance passed unanimously.
Rebuilt to code, the house that suffered the fatal fire includes sprinkler protection. Village officials, the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) and the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition (IFSC) made the house an educational project. We wanted to help heal the wounds of the surviving family and educate the village and neighboring communities on home fire sprinkler requirements.
Architectural plans for the renovation were obtained from the general contractor. United States Alliance Fire Protection (USAFP) then sent a surveyor out to test the area water supply by flow testing a hydrant and conducting some internal measurements. USAFP developed a layout drawing, including hydraulic calculations, and determined a small tank and fire pump would be needed due to a narrow and corroded underground tap.
To simplify the home's sprinklers, Riverdale officials agreed to have the public works department replace the small, underground water tap with a larger one. A local plumber put in a new line and USAFP installed sprinklers prior to the drywall installation.
Following the installation, NIFSAB & IFSC conducted an educational open house and walkthrough in December 2015. A fire sprinkler demonstration trailer was on site and accompanied a presentation recognizing the homeowners and those involved with the project. A “Living with Sprinklers” kit from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition was also presented to the family.
When the home is complete, another walkthrough will make sure the sprinklers function properly. The homeowners will also be encouraged to notify their insurance company of their eligibility of an insurance discount.
The installation was a heartfelt effort made possible by the Village Board, Chief Scharnhorst, Mayor Jackson, the village’s public works department, USAFP, B&F Construction, and Chicago Backflow, which contributed the backflow valve and system inspection certificate.
Finally we thank NFPA for providing the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition with a 2015 Bringing Safety Home Grant to help coordinate and promote the open house. The event is being used as a focal point for our educational efforts in the first half of 2016.
Everyone’s efforts helped Dedra’s son, Frederick Matthews, and his daughters reside in the first home in Riverdale protected by fire sprinklers.
This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.