Orange County, North Carolina, celebrated its 150th fire sprinkler installation inside a Habitat for Humanity home in March. The local chapter has been installing sprinklers in homes since 2003 as a means to provide the utmost level of protection for new homeowners.
"Our affiliate considers fire sprinklers an important part of our building philosophy," says Tyler Momsen-Hudson, construction director with Habitat for Humanity Orange County. "We strive to build safe, durable, energy-efficient, affordable housing, and we are committed both to installing sprinklers in our houses and in promoting sprinklers in all houses."
A local partnership between the local Habitat affiliate and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, firefighters prompted the sprinkler installations. Dan Jones, now retired chief of the Chapel Hill Fire Department, initially suggested the partnership.
To date, the sprinklers have activated four times in the past 13 years, notes Momsen-Hudson. Three of the four fires were started by unattended cooking, while the fourth was the result of a clogged dryer vent. The kitchen fires occurred while the residents were home, though nobody was home during the dryer fire. In all cases, the sprinklers extinguished the fires and prevented injuries.
Since North Carolina's building code doesn't include the requirement for sprinklering new homes, Momsen-Hudson makes it a point to underscore the benefits of this safety feature to new residents. (The North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition is also championing for sprinklers in new homes.) "We want to build safer homes for our families," he says. At the dedication ceremony of the 150th sprinklered home, retired Chief Jones made a point to underscore larger and more expensive homes built in Orange County while noting "the safest houses in the county were Habitat houses."