Skip navigation
All Places > FSI > Blog > 2016 > August

burn demonstration.JPG


"Today's fire is not your grandma's fire" was the theme of a live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration that took place recently in Rapid City, South Dakota. In front of a large crowd, members of the newly formed South Dakota Fire Sprinkler Coalition demonstrated what research has already confirmed--today's furnishings and modern building materials are made differently and burn faster than its predecessors.


Looking to showcase this point to the masses, the coalition took to the Central States Fair, where attendees watched flashover occur in two minutes, 14 seconds. "The crowd was utterly amazed, and [the event] reinforced our point about how quickly fire spreads," says coalition member Jody Telkamp, who also disseminated free information from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative to attendees.


Act-Now-small.jpgWatch the following video of this burn demonstration, and consider hosting a similar event at your local state fair or other event that tends to draw big crowds. Contact your state sprinkler coalition or NFPA to help fine tune any of your ideas.



Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter.JPGAccording to a safety advocate, one of the most crucial recommendations pertaining to fire sprinklers in a pivotal 1973 report has not only been ignored but regulated away.


Read his commentary about the landmark "America Burning" report in the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. You'll also find stories on:


  • burn survivor Cindy Rutter, and how she find her inner strength after a home fire
  • a homebuilding company sprinklering 11,000 of its new homes
  • why those cushy sofas in your home are a cause for concern


Are you receiving this free, monthly publication? If not, subscribe today to receive crucial news on today's home fire problem and sprinkler advocacy.

While deeply passionate about a serious cause, our fire sprinkler advocates also have a hearty sense of humor.


Get a chuckle from this 15-second commercial from LifeLock, an identity theft protection company:



"Why monitor a problem if you don't fix it?" states the voiceover in the commercial. The point LifeLock is humorously trying to make is that the company does more than "monitor" activity involving your personal information--it offers a solution if your information is compromised.


"I saw this commercial and couldn't stop laughing," says Azarang "Ozzie" Mirkhah, a fire protection engineer who recently shared his thoughts with NFPA. "This commercial hits the spot, and as an analogy could explain the difference between mere notification and actual, lifesaving suppression."


He compares the "security monitor" in the commercial to smoke alarms, and the actions by LifeLock to home fire sprinklers. Smoke alarms merely alert you to a problem, while fire sprinklers act quickly to extinguish the problem. "I am not saying smoke alarms aren't important," Mirkhah tells NFPA. "They are. There is an absolute need for them, and we should continue our national efforts. But...we need fire sprinklers in all new homes. When I'm 85 and living at home, and I can't get out quickly on my own to preserve myself in a home fire, all that the smoke alarms could do would be to only notify me of the fire condition, like the security monitor in the commercial. To survive, I would need to have fire sprinklers in my home to put out the fire and save my life."


Make sure you are logged into NFPA's Xchange and let us know your thoughts on Mirkhah's comparison. Once logged in, also use the social media buttons below to help share this post far and wide.


Now more than ever, it’s important for fire sprinkler advocates to have accurate and usable information underscoring the importance of adopting home fire sprinkler requirements. NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative would like your thoughts on the resources we’re offering on our website. Please take just a few minutes and complete this survey, which will help us gauge how you’re currently using our resources, how we can improve upon what we’re currently offering, and your interest in new resources we hope to provide. Your feedback is very important to us. The survey should only take a few minutes to complete.


NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team thanks you in advance!

house fire2.jpg

With the 1973 release of the "America Burning" report, the nation got an exhaustive look at its fire problem. Forty three years later, is the country--more specifically, the country's attempts to eliminate the burdens of home fires--progressing in the right direction?


One of the report's key recommendations by the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control was to support “improved automatic extinguishing systems that would find ready acceptance by Americans in all kinds of dwelling units.” Since 2009, all U.S. model building codes have included the provision to sprinkler new, one- and two-family dwellings. Despite the fact that more homes are sprinklered now than in the past--the percentage of reported fires in homes with sprinklers increased from one percent in 1980–1984 to six percent in 2006–2010, reports NFPA Journal--a major problem still lingers.


"One of the most poignant of the changes [outlined in "America Burning"] that has not only been ignored, but regulated away, deals with automatic sprinklers," Jeff Dorhauer, chief of the Osage Beach Fire Protection District in Missouri, wrote in a commentary published in 2015. "While code changes at both the national and local level have addressed automatic suppression...the State of Missouri falls short in one- and two-family dwellings." Similar to laws passed in other states, Missouri's towns can't adopt a code requiring fire sprinklers in these settings. Builders, however, must inform home buyers they can opt to sprinkler their home.


That's not enough, states Dorhauer, adding that his legislators have removed a community's ability to make the call on whether or not to sprinkler its new homes. "President Richard Nixon...[said] that Government could not completely regulate this country into safety. While I agree ... we must also realize that if we are to achieve a safer community that the same government cannot regulate away safety either."


Follow Dorhauer's lead and take a stance in support of home fire sprinkler requirements. Use these free resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative to state your case.

florida fire sprinkler coalition grant.jpg

(The Florida Fire Sprinkler Coalition was a 2016 recipient of NFPA's Bringing Safety Home Grant. From left: NFPA Regional Director Randy Safer; coalition chairs Wendy Niles and Kingman Schuldt; and NFPA Regional Sprinkler Specialist Tim Travers)


Formed only a few months ago, the Florida Fire Sprinkler Coalition is already making headlines.


The coalition was featured in the August 2016 edition of Florida Fire Service, the publication for the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association, for its goal to increase statewide acceptance and use of home fire sprinklers. As is the case in many North American regions, Florida has a home fire problem; between 2005 and 2014, there were approximately 230,000 home fires that resulted in 70 percent of Florida’s fire deaths. These fires also caused $2.5 billion in property damage.


“We’re losing the battle," says Wendy Niles, the coalition's co-chair, in the article. "We still have fire deaths that are not going away."


With help from a $10,000 grant awarded by NFPA (see who else received one this year), the coalition kickstarted its efforts this year to promote fire sprinklers, including the launch of a statewide contest on developing an education campaign. "Because of the coalition, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference in every community, with every family," said Kingman Schuldt, the coalition's co-chair. "I have never been more excited to support an initiative that can impact our communities in such a positive manner."


Read the full article about the coalition.

Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition.jpgThe following was written by Gregg Cleveland, fire chief of the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Fire Department and chair of the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition:


If you had a tool that could reduce fireground firefighter injuries by 65 percent, according to NFPA data, would you want to use it? Of course you would. Home fire sprinklers are your tool. Sprinklers can reduce firefighter injuries and save your community valuable tax dollars that your department could spend in a more effective manner.


What are the barriers to using this valuable tool?  In Wisconsin, it is the Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC). The UDC is a code that prescribes the minimum and maximum level of code compliance for all new, one- and two-family homes. Under the UDC, local communities cannot require home fire sprinklers in new homes. Since I personally don't see this changing anytime soon in Wisconsin, life safety advocates and I have formed the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition. The coalition provides education to the fire service, local elected officials, legislators, homebuilders, and other interested parties on the life safety and economic benefits home fire sprinklers can provide.


Several years ago I was fortunate enough to present a program regarding the costs of a single firefighter injury sustained at a home fire. Taking into account the workers’ compensation benefits, overtime/backfill, medical costs, etc., this one injury cost a community approximately $50,000. While there are so many benefits to requiring sprinklers in one- or two-family dwellings, one rarely discussed is firefighter safety. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has identified code enforcement and sprinklers as one of 16 different initiatives that should be pursued to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths.


I would challenge you to identify the occupancy type where your department suffers the most firefighter injuries. I can tell you that from 2010 to 2015 nearly 63 percent of all of our injuries that occurred on the fireground were at residential dwellings. Looking at it another way, 95 percent of injuries at our residential occupancies occurred in residential dwellings without automatic fire sprinklers. Obliviously not all injuries result in time away from work or medical attention. However, it would be helpful to take a closer look at these injures, where they occur, and how much they cost the community. You might be surprised.


We are at a disadvantage in Wisconsin with our mini-max code. However, if we talked more about the impact firefighter injuries from home fires have on our budgets and tax rates, maybe we would see more local elected officials and state legislators taking note of the advantages of home fire sprinklers.


What are your thoughts on Gregg Cleveland's post? Please share your thoughts by logging into Xchange and commenting on this post.

home fires.jpg

Satisfying the goal of any good headline, this one grabbed my attention: "Sprinklers could have helped knock down home fire."


I was immediately impressed by the journalist's approach to this story. He/she could have easily followed the format seen many times before: "Fire ravages home" or "Fire leaves family homeless" or "Blaze injures dozens." Rather than focusing solely on the aftermath, the journalist weaved in the solution that might have impacted the outcome.


Appearing in The Reflector, a newspaper serving a handful of Washington towns, the story's first sentence also informs readers that fire wasn't the only reason for the home's destruction. "Lack of fire sprinklers aided in the damage to a large home just south of Battle Ground in an early Sunday morning blaze," it read. By the time crews arrived, the fire had spread from the basement to the attic. Fortunately, nobody was injured from the fire.

The reporter finalizes the story with a stellar quote from Clark County, Washington, Fire & Rescue Division Chief Tim Dawdy: "We hope people learn a lesson from this. When building a ... residence, it needs to be sprinklered." Let's hope more reporters spotlight sprinklers in this manner.


You can help the media promote fire sprinklers. Use the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's new sprinkler media guide and learn how to craft key sprinkler messages.


Drinking water supplies serving approximately six million Americans contain firefighting chemicals exceeding the maximum allowable limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states a new report.


Using water samples gathered by the EPA, researchers for the new study discovered firefighting foam chemicals popular during firefighter training operations. “During firefighting practice drills, large volumes of these chemicals wash into surface and ground waters and can end up in our drinking water," Arlene Blum, the study's co-author from the University of California Berkeley, told National Public Radio (NPR).


Certain versions of the firefighting chemicals barely surpassed EPA's maximum allowable limit while others were significantly higher, states the NPR report. Exposure to these chemicals, according to NPR, has been linked to cancer and hormonal changes.


While not focusing on home fires, the study does call to mind the way home fire sprinklers safeguard the environment from the debilitating effects of fire. The "Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers" report by FM Global and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition states that fewer persistent pollutants, such as heavy metals, and fewer solids were detected in wastewater samples from sprinklered homes during a fire. The wastewater from unsprinklered homes under fire "represents a serious environmental concern," stated the report.


A homebuilder headquartered in Alberta, Canada, has decided to sprinkler its new development's single- and multi-family homes.


The new community, called Livingston, will include 6,500 single-family homes and 4,500 multi-family homes on nearly 1,300 acres in Calgary, according to the Calgary Herald. Livingston is the first community in Calgary to sprinkler all of its new homes. “[Fire sprinklers] add an extra layer of safety,” said Trent Edwards, CEO of Brookfield Residential, the homebuilder overseeing this development. “We know we are going to have to come out of pocket on this, at least at the beginning, because it’s the right thing to do.


“This is our investment in safety."


Brookfield Residential was also successful in sprinklering one of its developments in California, where home fire sprinklers are required statewide. The more fire sprinklers become a reality in new homes in Calgary, the more this demand will positively impact installation costs, states the Calgary Herald.


Watch this video of Murray Pound, one of NFPA's Faces of Fire who has made a point to install sprinklers in his company's new homes:





Live burn demo 2016 East Long Meadow.jpg

In a mere 78 seconds, fire had its way with a mock living room. The aftermath resembled a scene from a disaster flick: an upholstered chair singed beyond recognition and emitting white smoke, a brown couch colored black from fire, drywall now resembling Swiss cheese from all of the holes. The firefighters' rapid response wasn't fast enough to salvage the room's contents. It's evident that nothing living would have survived the fire, either.

A few steps from the ruin, fire sprinklers activated inside a similar structure in 13 seconds. Though wet, the furniture was still intact.

Displaying the solution to the deadly realities of today's home fires was the East Longmeadow Fire Department in Massachusetts. This fire sprinkler demonstration attracted a large crowd and the local media, which highlighted sprinkler water use and Sprinkler Activation 101.

If intrigued by this event, learn how easy it is to create this demo in your region:



Live burn demo 2016 East Long Meadow3.jpg

The aftermath of the mock room without fire sprinklers

Live burn demo 2016 East Long Meadow4.jpg

A sizzling sofa after the fire

Live burn demo 2016 East Long Meadow5.jpg

Small but powerful: a fire sprinkler on display at the demo

Cindy Rutter.jpg


Introducing Cindy Rutter, a burn survivor and home fire sprinkler advocate now blogging for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Her story is a lesson in home fires--the lives altered, injuries endured, and endless hope from those impacted that these tragedies finally come to an end:


There is something horrific about home fires resulting in death or burn injury. It certainly is something that I never brush off when I hear about one, as it brings back memories.


This is my story, which was featured in a 1959 newspaper article:


Tot Burned In Accident

Tragedy whistled a warning early yesterday and a Coolidge disc-jockey’s six-year-old daughter was burned critically when it went unheeded.


Cindy Ellen Holliday was brought to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix with burns on 85 percent of her body, suffered in a water heater explosion and fire so intense it disintegrated concrete slabs in the home.


Her Father, Lee Holliday, who has a music program twice daily on Radio Station KCKY, was burned on both hands tearing flaming clothing from his daughter while fire raged through their house near Coolidge.


Holliday said he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a whistling noise. Just then Cindy appeared in his bedroom.


“Daddy, she asked, “What is that whistling noise?” Holliday thought it might be coming from a nearby farm. He told the child: “I don’t know. Go back to bed.”


The tot passed the heater in an alcove in the hallway, and had just stepped into her bedroom when the heater blew up. All the windows in the house were shattered.


Holliday scrabbled out of bed and raced for his daughter.


“She was on the bed in flames,” he said.


He smothered the fire and carried her from the house. His wife Loretta also fled the flames saving nothing.


Holliday said he believed the heater’s thermostat failed and the pressure built up.


The fire had a devastating impact on me, the tot in this story. Six years old at the time, I would have little recollection of the initial trauma my small body endured. I soon learned that the flames that had also destroyed my home had ravaged my body. I sustained burns on 85 percent of my body, the majority of which were third-degree and required skin grafting.


From April to October 1959, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, was my home. Initially, I was in a pediatric isolation room, as they did not have a burn unit in Arizona in 1959. Soon after the fire, I had surgery every couple of days just to keep me alive and to try and cover my skin that had been destroyed. I was in and out of hospitals every Christmas and summer until I turned 18. The number of surgeries reached 100.


I was the first burn case for Dr. Rex Peterson, my physician. Receiving a great deal of criticism for his actions, Dr. Peterson tried saving my life while others questioned whether I was a life worth saving. Needless to say, my family was grateful for his actions.


However, they had their own emotional impact from my injuries. Since the fire demolished our home, they lost everything they owned. Gone forever were not only all of their worldly possessions but also any memories that they had garnished over their lifetimes. The impact of all that had happened led to my biological father leaving our family four months after the house fire. For many years, I couldn’t grasp his departure. I could not understand, as a young child, why he made this decision. But the saying “when one door closes another opens” rang true.


The man my mom married two years after my injury would become instrumental in helping me find a “normal life” (if there is such a thing). He and my mom were determined to make me realize that although I looked different, my life had endless possibilities.


That’s not to say I didn’t have a difficult road ahead. I was out shopping with my grandmother one day and two ladies said to her, “Why would you bring a child that looks like that out in public?” I thought my grandmother was going to punch them. When I returned to school, I still had some dressing on my legs and my face had some large, keloid scars. Several of the kids gathered around me, called me ugly, and said I should go back to the hospital and “get fixed.”


The support from my immediate family got me through those dark days. My one aunt would always say to me, “When life throws you a curve ball, what do you do?” My response? “Hit a home run.”


I firmly believe I have hit a lot of home runs in my life—and plan to hit a few more.


Cindy Rutter is a burn survivor who has spent most of her life advocating for the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. She spent her professional career ascending the nursing ladder, becoming a burn nurse and eventually the nurse manager of the University of California, San Diego Regional Burn Center. She's also a member of the Phoenix Society's Aftercare Committee, a joint project with the American Burn Association that aims to establish standards for aftercare in the areas of rehabilitation and reintegration for those impacted by burn trauma. Cindy will tell you the best thing in her life is being a mom and grandmother.


Do you have a story about a home fire you'd like to share? Login or register to Xchange to submit your story directly to this post.


Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) founding members with HFSC spokesperson and home improvement expert Ron Hazelton after a fire sprinkler demo at the NFPA Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. (Left to right) Ron Hazelton; HFSC Communications Manager Peg Paul; Frank Mortl, AFSA; Steve Muncy, AFSA; Gary Keith, FM Global; HFSC President Lorraine Carli, NFPA; and Vickie Pritchett, NFSA.


Twenty years ago, there was trouble at home. The place where Americans spent the most time was where fire was also killing the most people. This grim reality didn't sit well with NFPA or other organizations in the business of life safety. Everyone seemed to understand the importance of smoke alarms and home escape planning, but there was another component of life safety that wasn't getting enough attention.


A unique collaboration with NFPA, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, and the American Fire Sprinkler Association brought to light the solution to safer homes. In 1996, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) was formed and has since illuminated home fire sprinklers as a necessary component in all new homes.


Other partnering organizations and companies have since joined (HFSC), creating an educational endeavor that has taught countless residents throughout North America how fire sprinklers combat the realities of home fires. “From day one, all of the founding members put aside any political and philosophical differences to focus on the task of developing the best home fire sprinkler educational material we could,” says Gary Keith,  FM Global’s vice president of Engineering Standards, who during his tenure at NFPA was HFSC’s President. “We knew we were ahead of where the model codes were on home fire sprinklers at that point in time, but that only made us more determined to sharpen our educational message and build support across all interest groups."


Take a compelling look at the 20-year history of HFSC by reading this story on its history. And say "happy birthday" to HFSC by tweeting them.


From fireproofing rooftops to keeping lawns hydrated, residents can take simple steps to prepare their home's exterior against the threats of wildfire. (Download NFPA's updated Firewise Toolkit for other easy suggestions.)  A trade association representing insurance companies is now urging residents to take precautions indoors as well as outdoors.


The Northwest Insurance Council, a nonprofit funded by insurance industries in the northwest corner of the U.S., suggests residents living in wildfire-prone areas to consider home fire sprinklers. Combined with properly working smoke alarms (if they're older than 10 years, it's time to replace them) and NFPA's Firewise Principles, home fire sprinklers can help protect homes and lives from wildfire.

"Wildfires burned more than 2.6 million acres in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho last year alone, and more homes and businesses are threatened by fire each year as development pushes deeper into the Wildland-Urban Interface," Kenton Brine, president of the Northwest Insurance Council, stated in a news release. "It is more important than ever for property owners and communities to work together to prepare for and mitigate the impact of these devastating fires."

More and more home insurers are rewarding homeowners who install home fire sprinklers. According to NFPA research, some companies are offering anywhere from four to 13 percent insurance discounts for home fire sprinklers.



Fueling stronger support for fire sprinklers in the Northwest corner of the U.S. are a number of state sprinkler coalitions. See how these groups are creatively advocating for this life-safety feature in new homes:




Ted and Aspasia Kiapos.jpg

Theodore and Aspasia Kiapos, killed in a recent California home fire. Photo from GoFundMe



A series of deadly incidents all within the past month confirms the enormity of North America's home fire problem--and the people impacted by them.


Married for more than half a century, Theodore Kiapos and his wife, Aspasia, were killed in a recent California home fire. Both were sleeping when the fire erupted, reports the Los Angeles Times. Rescuers found and revived the couple en route to the hospital, where they later died from their injuries.


"By the grace of God, though the fire took nearly everything that belonged in my family's history, many of their photo albums, including their wedding albums remain," stated Sophia Kiapos, the couple's granddaughter, on a GoFundMe page she established for the couple. "Unfortunately, immense damage has been done to the property, as their home of 50 years no longer stands with life, and only remains in ashes."


On the opposite side of the country, four people--including an eight and a 10 year old--succumbed to smoke inhalation from a home fire in New Hampshire. The cause was an improperly discarded cigarette that smoldered on a piece of upholstered furniture before erupting into fire, according to a news report. State Fire Marshal William Degnan, a staunch advocate for home fire sprinklers (watch NFPA's interview with him), noted the importance of properly discarding smoking materials to the media.


Another fire in Chicago left four firefighters injured from backdraft conditions inside a home. After pinpointing the fire's source, the heat and size of the fire quickly surged, forcing the firefighters to quickly seek safety. "As the firefighters make entry, you may have a fire just sitting there, and the only thing it's lacking is oxygen," Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago told the Chicago Tribune. "In order for firefighters to get in there, they're going to open doors, and it will start feeding that fire. Sometimes, it's like an explosion. They're engulfed in fire."


All firefighters received first- and second-degree burns from the fire.


Derita Conley, one of the home's residents, described to the newspaper her relief that her daughter and two grandchildren safely escaped the fire. Her home, however, was an unfortunate casualty of the blaze. “I’m just in a state of shock that this happened. I lost everything. Everything was brand-new.’’


Act-Now-small.jpgThese incidents aren't anomalies. They're the realities of today's home fires. Please do whatever you can to alert your town's decision makers that home fire sprinklers are the solution and need to be seriously considered. Even a simple email to your local legislator will get home fire sprinklers on their radar. Use NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative's free resources to assist you.

July 2016 Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter.JPGIn the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, learn about a new app catered to fire sprinkler advocates. You’ll also read about:


• an expensive push by the homebuilding industry to fight fire sprinkler requirements across the U.S.

• what we all can learn from the ’80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

• another state forming its own sprinkler coalition


Stay knowledgeable on today's home fire concerns by subscribing today to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter--a free, monthly publication. You'll never miss an issue, since it's delivered directly to your inbox.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: