Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fire Sprinklers Save Local Businesses (SPVFD/WI Fire Inspectors Association)

In case you ever think the City is unnecessarily tough about sprinklers, read about these two recent incidents that occurred in local businesses during the last week of July 2011:

Incident #1: 911 caller/1st arriving law enforcement reports heavy water flow coming from store front. First engine arrives and determines that a sprinkler head was activated in the soffit outside of a storefront. Firefighters had to force entry into one active store front and an adjacent store front to check for fire extension. None was found. The soffit was pulled in two places to check for lateral spread in soffit-no visible signs of smoke or heat damage. Investigation reveals that a planter outside of one store front had caught fire and set off the sprinkler. Likely cause: discarded smoking materials. There was no loss of business (all businesses were able to open as normal), no damage (from either smoke, fire or water) on interior of structure. Damage limited to under $3000. The sprinkler system was repaired immediately and put back into service (extra heads are required to be kept on site). Without a sprinkler system in place, this fire would have spread into the lightweight wood construction of the overhanging soffit, and been allowed to spread without control. At a minimum, severe fire, smoke and water damage (from firefighting activities) would have been done to the structure and multiple business would not have been able to open as normal. At worst, the entire building could have been lost.

Incident #2: Fire Department dispatched to a multi-family building for fire alarm sounding. On arrival, firefighters found the sprinkler bell sounding and water coming from the indoor garbage dumpster area. Light smoke in area. Firefighters investigating report that a sprinkler head was flowing above dumpsters. Dumpsters were removed, one containing burning material. All 16 units in the structure were evacuated, but were allowed to return to their apartments in approx. 1 hour. Investigation reveals that a fire was in the dumpster that was subsequently controlled and extinguished by a single sprinkler head. The dumpster was 2/3 full, but most of the garbage in the dumpster was un-burned because the fire was extinguished so quickly. There was NO damage to the structure, no smoke damage to adjacent apartments, and there was NO damage to the structure as a result of firefighting or investigative activities. (The actual cause of the fire was "undetermined") . Approximate cost of repairs: Under $500. If there had not been a sprinkler system in place, the fire would have burned the rest of the garbage in the dumpster, likely spread to exterior (siding), apartment above the garbage area, and the parking garage. At a minimum, heavy smoke damage would have displaced apartment dwellers and caused thousands of dollars in damages. Worst case scenario: the residents of the entire structure would have been displaced and heavy damage would have occurred.

Blogger's Note: If you have questions about code requirements or would like more information about sprinklers for your business, contact Sun Prairie Fire Inspector Mark Mlekush at 608-575-2374 or by e-mail at

Blogger's Note #2: Other resources you might want to check out:

Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department
Wisconsin Fire Inspectors Association
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Blogger's Note #3: Talk to your commercial business insurance carrier for additional information on how sprinklers can affect your rates and lessen the risk to your business.

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