Sprinkler demo shows benefits

Red Deer Emergency Services hope to see a lot more sprinklers inside homes, with the help of public education and new home builders.

Members of Red Deer Emergency Services examine the difference in fire damage between a room protected with a sprinklers

Members of Red Deer Emergency Services examine the difference in fire damage between a room protected with a sprinklers

Red Deer Emergency Services hope to see a lot more sprinklers inside homes, with the help of public education and new home builders.

Fire-medics performed a controlled demonstration at the downtown fire station on Saturday to push the benefits of having a sprinkler system.

While about 150 people watched, one shack without a sprinkler was set on fire. Smoke quickly filled the inside and after one minute, the room burst into flames. Two firefighters approached with a hose to extinguish the blaze quickly.

Shortly after, the second shack was lit on fire. As the smoke began to spread, the sprinkler system was triggered at 22 seconds and water blasted down. The shack without a sprinkler was completely charred, while the one with a sprinkler suffered minimal damage.

“Sprinkler systems, when installed properly, are effective in controlling and suppressing the fire immediately,” said fire prevention officer Wes Van Bavel, during Saturday’s launch of Fire Prevention Week.

Sprinklers don’t kick in until the temperature reaches about 150 Celsius.

“A sprinkler head puts out about 25 litres of water per minute compared to when we come in with an inch and three-quarter line, we’re putting out 475 litres a minute,” Van Bavel added.

Van Bavel referred to a blaze inside a retirement home that resulted in about $5,000 water damage after the sprinkler system put out a candle fire. Potentially, two or three suites could have each sustained about $200,000 damages, plus smoke and soot throughout the floor.

“It’s not cheap, but for what it does for you, it’s probably worth it,” said Red Deer resident Sean Barrow after the demonstration.

“It could possibly save a lot of people, but property as well.”

Van Bavel said the cost is insignificant at home construction time, about $1 a square foot.

“We are trying to work with the (Central Alberta) homebuilders association,” said Van Bavel.

“What we’d really like to see is a provincial mandate where new homes must be constructed with sprinklers. There’s starting to be a push for that.”

Homes are being built so close together that if one catches fire, they quickly spread, Van Bavel said.

“We need something to suppress and stop that fire,” he said.

Red Deer Emergency Services response time is typically four minutes, 90 per cent of the time. An average house will flash over in three minutes, so even with quick response, damages will occur, Van Bavel added.

Residents were also encouraged to practice home fire drills and ensure their smoke alarms are operating.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com