Crowds gathered as smoke and flames were billowing through the air at Haggen Food & Pharmacy last Saturday. Lake Stevens firefighters actually started the fires in an effort to demonstrate the difference in homes which have installed fire sprinklers and those without them.
Lake Stevens Fire Marshal Robert Marshall explained how homebuilders today build safe and effective homes, it’s the products we place in our homes which cause fires to spread rapidly and create dark, black smoke.
“The fire problem is not our homebuilders,” he said. “The fire problem is what we put in our homes.”
Marshall explained that much of our home furnishings are made with petroleum products which cause fires to spread quickly and create black smoke.
“An unfurnished home would burn more slowly and create a white and gray smoke,” Marshall said. “Furnished homes produce black smoke.”
He went on to explain the cause and effect of flashover. At the time of flashover, all flammable materials ignite. An example of flashover is when a piece of furniture is ignited in a domestic room. The fire involving the initial piece of furniture can produce a layer of hot smoke which spreads across the ceiling in the room.
“No one survives flashover,” Marshall said.
However, by installing fire sprinklers in your home, flashover can be stopped before it evens begins.
“Residential home fires can be devastating,” Allison Caton of the Lake Stevens Fire District explained. “Fire sprinklers can drastically reduce the effects.”
Now the crowds were ready to see the difference for themselves.
The Fire District had two ‘boxes’ which were identical in their furnishings. Each contained a small couch, chair, television with stand and a lamp. One had fire sprinklers, the other did not.
Within minutes the box containing the fire sprinklers had doused the fire while the other box continued to spew forth black, dirty smoke. Smoke alarms could be heard in both boxes but the flames were kept at a minimum with the sprinklers, which are set to go off as soon as the temperature hits 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The cost of installing fire sprinklers in a home runs anywhere between $2-$5 per square foot,” Jeff Moen from Wolfe Fire Protection, Inc. of Monroe explained, depending upon how much work is involved.
It takes approximately two days to install and the sprinklers are concealed in the ceiling.
In 2009 the International Residential Code asked that newly constructed one and two family homes require fire sprinklers, Washington state has chosen to leave the decision up to each individual city. Currently, Lake Stevens does not require builders to install sprinklers.