Local Fire Departments Receive $2,000 To Raise Awareness For Benefits Of Home Fire Sprinklers

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Firefighters oversee a burn demonstration. Photo courtesy of Mike Vadlja

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has provided $2,000 to Muskoka fire departments to help raise awareness for the safety benefits of home fire sprinklers.

The Huntsville/Lake of Bays (HLOB) Fire Department and the Muskoka Lakes Fire Department applied for funding on behalf of all five fire departments in Muskoka. The two departments received $1,000 stipends, which will be used by all the local departments to increase public awareness of home sprinkler systems. Mike Vadlja, fire prevention officer with the HLOB Fire Department, said the HFSC is great because their support allows Muskoka fire departments to showcase home sprinkler systems and their value as a safety feature. Smoke alarms and escape plans are important, he said, but sprinkler systems keep residents much safer. 

“We call it the next generation of fire safety basically because the way homes burn nowadays and the time you have to get out, smoke alarms warn you of the fire, but sprinklers would allow you the time to get out and they would also limit the property damage,” Vadlja said.

The Orillia Fire Department and 12 other fire departments across Canada also received stipends of $500 each. The Muskoka fire departments plan to use their funding to create displays that showcase how a sprinkler system would be set up in a home, Vadlja said. The funding will also go toward live burn demonstrations happening this fall, which will likely happen over Facebook Live due to COVID restrictions.

Two cubicles used for a side-by-side burn demonstration to show the safety benefits of sprinkler systems. Photo courtesy of Mike Vadlja

For their burn demonstrations, the fire departments create two 10’ by 10’ cubicles and fill them with a bed, a dresser and other items to replicate a typical bedroom. One is equipped with a sprinkler system while the other is not to show the difference between a sprinklered home and a non-sprinklered home. 

During the demonstration, they light the wastebasket on fire to simulate real-life situations like a candle getting knocked over. The fire in the non-sprinklered unit typically reaches flashover in under two minutes, according to Vadlja, meaning everything in the cubicle has ignited. The occupants in a room like that could not survive the conditions, he said, but the sprinklered unit shows what a difference home sprinkler systems can make.

“The sprinkler goes off just after the smoke alarm goes off, so a minute, a minute and a half, and it controls the fire. The damage is limited,” Vadlja said. “[In] the couple of burns that I did, the wastepaper basket and a drape and maybe a little bit of bedding was damaged by fire, but the rest was just wet so it was salvageable, whereas the unit without the sprinklers was totally destroyed. Everything was gone.”

Another advantage of sprinklers is the prevention of toxic gas being released, which is often what leads to fire deaths.

“People don’t die from the flames, they die from the toxic fumes because of all the plastics and synthetic materials we have nowadays, that’s what kills people,” he said, adding that carbon monoxide is often the culprit. “In a sprinklered home, those gases are pretty much gone because the sprinkler is controlling that fire, and there’s none of those deadly gases that are being released.” 

For more information on home fire sprinklers, visit the HFSC website. Visit the HLOB Fire Department on Facebook for future burn demonstrations and other information on fire safety. 

A fire contained in the sprinklered unit from a burn demonstration. Photo courtesy of Mike Vadlja

1 COMMENT

  1. I realize retrofitting a sprinkler system into an existing home is much more expensive and time consuming however, new housing (single family or commercial) could be done much easier. A few examples of costs plus some kick-back incentives from insurance companies would be helpful.

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