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Notes from NFSA Regional Manager Bob Kleinheinz

We are nearing the holidays and the end of 2012. It is a time at which many of us enjoy friends and family and create memories, but unfortunately it is also the time of year in which home fires increase, mostly caused by cooking or improperly used holiday decorations.

Cooking is the cause of nearly half of residential building fires year-round, and there is an even more increased incidence of cooking fires on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve Day, and Christmas Day. Additionally, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year.

While these types of fires can be prevented by being more attentive, fire sprinklers are a proven backup if a fire does occur. According to the NFPA, installing both fire sprinklers and smoke alarms reduces the risk of death in a home fire by 82% relative to having neither. In addition, fire sprinklers allow occupants time to safely follow their escape plan. Fire sprinklers are like having a firefighter on duty 365 days a year, controlling or extinguishing a fire in its place of origin. They are a proven piece of technology that should always be considered when building a new home.

Unfortunately, when fire sprinklers are not present, there is an unnecessary potential for loss of life when a fire occurs. In October, during Fire Prevention Week, three lives were lost to fires — a 60-year-old female in a Green Bay apartment fire and two University of Wisconsin – La Crosse students in an off-campus housing fire. These are fires that could have been prevented if fire sprinklers were present.

It goes without saying that any fire death is difficult to hear about, but it is especially difficult during Fire Prevention Week, a week when the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA-WI) works with fire departments to educate the public about the dangers of fire and the benefits of having lifesaving fire sprinklers in the places that they live.

We have the ability to make the future safer for anyone calling Wisconsin home, whether as a homeowner, renter or student. Through public education and the support of fire service leaders, we need to convince our legislators to advocate for the adoption of fire sprinkler legislation in all occupancies, accepting no less than the national model standards when it comes to fire protection. Only then will we see a fire-safe Wisconsin.

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