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Tragic Home Fires in Princeton & Sigel Highlight Need for Home Fire Sprinklers, Especially for High-Risk Populations and Rural Areas

On Tuesday, February 5, a house fire in the rural Town of Princeton claimed the life of a woman, who is believed to be the 66-year-old homeowner. This happened less than a week after a house fire in the rural Town of Sigel, which claimed the life of an elderly couple and their 38-year-old son due to smoke inhalation on Wednesday, January 30.

Bob Kleinheinz, regional manager for the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA-WI), says the elderly victims fell in the high-risk category for fire deaths, citing reports from the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which state that those at highest risk from fires include young children, the elderly and those with disabilities.

In addition, according to both the Green Lake County Sheriff’s Office (Princeton) and the Wood County Sheriff’s Department (Sigel), the rural locations of the homes where the fires occurred do not have fire hydrants or a municipal water supply, and they are also served by volunteer fire departments.

Kleinheinz says that if home fire sprinkler systems had been present, they could have prevented the fires from spreading, allowing the occupants to escape safely without harm.

“Fire sprinklers are individually activated by heat and control or extinguish a fire in its place of origin, keeping toxic smoke and fumes from spreading,” he says. “A fire sprinkler’s quick response happens well before the 15-20 minutes it may take a slower responding volunteer fire department to arrive with water tankers. And in an unsprinklered fire, the fire department likely will need to refill their tankers to fight the fire, which usually spreads throughout an entire home by the time they arrive.”

“Fire sprinklers should always be considered in addition to smoke alarms when building a new home because they save lives,” adds Kleinheinz. NFPA statistics state that installing both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system in a home reduces the risk of death in a fire by 82%, relative to having neither.

In fact, home fire sprinklers are now present in national model fire and building codes from both of the major code-governing bodies, NFPA and the International Code Council. However, the State of Wisconsin has not adopted those model codes as part of its current legislation.

“We offer condolences to the family and friends of the fire victims in Princeton and Sigel,” adds Kleinheinz.

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