Christine Jurus was only 14 when she peeked out of her neighbor’s window and saw her childhood home in flames. Earlier that evening, firefighters responded to the blaze, which was initiated by a mini fridge plugged into an extension cord. Once the firefighters left the scene, the fire rekindled. "There were 15-foot flames shooting out of the window," Jurus, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, tells NFPA. "I looked out my neighbor's window, saw it once, and was so overwhelmed by it that I didn't look at it again."
Unfortunately, the fire was a prelude to another catastrophic event. Three years later, an explosion occurred while Jurus was conducting a high school chemistry experiment involving liquid methanol. She suffered third-degree burns on 18 percent of her body.
Following her burn injury, Jurus linked up with the Phoenix Society, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering burn survivors via a variety of programs. (The organization's executive director, Amy Acton, is an NFPA board member.) “I found out about residential sprinklers through Phoenix,” says Jurus, 31. “It was that ‘a-ha’ moment. I remember watching my first side-by-side burn demonstration and just thinking, ‘how could a person not want this in their house?' I told myself that one day, when I build my own home, it’s totally going to have that [system].”
Jurus is a woman of her word. She’s now in the process of finalizing designs for her new, 4000-square-foot home in Alto, Michigan, where she will live with her soon-to-be husband. “He knew that sprinklers was nonnegotiable. When you really crunch the numbers, the cost isn’t some undue, added expense. I have been doing some research and noticed the average cost per square foot has gone down.”
Spreading the sprinkler message has brought some meaning to Jurus' past tragedies; she’s taken sprinkler advocacy trainings initiated by the Phoenix Society and has shared her story at code hearings. “There’s a piece of mind knowing that if anything were to happen, my home is so much more protected than merely having a fire alarm,” she says. “But it’s more than that. I also want the people in my home protected.”