The Smithfield Fire Department in Rhode Island responded to structure fires in townhouse style apartments located on the Bryant University campus on three occasions starting in April of 2010. This post will document the different outcomes of these fires to highlight the benefits of residential fire sprinklers.
The first fire was in a unit with residential sprinklers occurring at 6 p.m. The home’s occupant heated vegetable oil to boiling in a covered pot. When the cover was removed, the vapors caused a flash that ignited grease in the residential hood. Fire damage was confined to the kitchen cabinets and stove hood as a single quick response sprinkler head activated and extinguished most of the fire with the fire department completing extinguishment of the hood and under cabinet areas. Water was removed and rugs and other items dried with power fans. There were no injuries. The cost to repair this unit was approximately $21,000, and it was reoccupied within a week.
The second fire occurred in the main hall of the lower level of a unit with no sprinklers at approximately 2 a.m. Although undetermined, it is believed to have been started by carelessly discarded smoking materials. There was extensive fire and smoke damage throughout the entire unit. The lone occupant, asleep on the upper floor, was able to escape due to the fire alarm activation. This fire caused more than $150,000 worth of damage. The unit was unoccupied for six months.
The third fire occurred in the lower level bathroom of a unit with sprinkler protection at 4 a.m. This fire was caused by a butane lighter in the bathroom igniting the plastic shower curtain. This fire was contained to the bathroom by a single quick response sprinkler head which fully extinguished the fire. Fire damage was contained to the curtain with some smoke damage in and around the bathroom and hallway on the lower level. Water was removed and rugs and other items dried with power fans. There were no injuries. The cost to repair this unit was approximately $11,000, and it was reoccupied within a week.
These three fires make evident that residential fire sprinkler protect property the property; on top of the life safety benefits they provide.
NFPA statistics reveal that direct property damage is reduced by 68% when sprinklers are present. The HFSC/FM Global report found that automatic fire sprinklers reduce fire damage by up to 97% and reduce water usage to fight a home fire by upwards of 90%. The unprotected property was vacant for six months resulting in additional indirect cost impact.
A special thanks to NFPA’s Marty Ahrens and Captain James A. Waterman II, Assistant Deputy State Fire Marshal, and Smithfield Fire Marshal for providing the information for this post.
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