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While Fire Hydrant Failed, Home Fire Sprinklers Could Have Prevented Fire Death in Ashland

A fire hydrant failed while fire crews were on scene to battle an early morning house fire in the City of Ashland on Sunday, May 12, that claimed the life of one person. The fire hydrant was plugged with metal debris that kept it from functioning properly, so firefighters had to use valuable time to ready another fire hydrant.

According to Bob Kleinheinz, a former fire official who is now with the nonprofit Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA-WI), just a few seconds can make the difference in an occupant surviving a home fire.

“The home was almost completely engulfed in flames before fire crews even arrived on scene,” says Kleinheinz. “Had fire sprinklers been present in this home, they could have made the difference in a life being saved, controlling or extinguishing the fire while it was still small. And it all would have occurred well before fire crews arrived and even further before they determined that the first fire hydrant was not functioning properly.”

Fire sprinklers also protect firefighters responding to fires, preventing incidents such as those that occurred in this fire. Those incidents included the home’s main support beam buckling and a collapse of the first floor, which caused a firefighter to fall into the crawlspace. Fortunately, he escaped and was not harmed.

Research of national fire statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports 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. However, the State of Wisconsin has not yet adopted the most recent national model fire and building codes from the NFPA and the International Code Council that require home fire sprinklers, which in turn prevents fire tragedies and fireground incidents from occurring.

“Many new homes across the U.S. are being built with home fire sprinkler systems in addition to smoke alarms. Wisconsin residents should request that the State’s codes provide the same level of protection from fire for new homes here in Wisconsin,” states Kleinheinz. “Since fire sprinklers are individually activated by heat and operate independently of smoke alarms, they control or extinguish a fire in its place of origin, keeping toxic smoke and fumes from spreading and allowing homeowners to escape safely without harm. Fire sprinklers should always be considered in addition to smoke alarms when building a new home because they save lives.”

“We offer condolences to the family and friends of the fire victim in Ashland,” adds Kleinheinz.

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