Fire association receives funds to promote home sprinklers

The Delaware Volunteer Firefighters’ Association Sprinkler Committee received a $500 stipend to conduct a live side-by-side residential fire sprinkler burn demonstration. Scheduling is pending as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. (Submitted photo/Delaware Volunteer Firefighters’ Association)

DOVER — Picture an incinerated room that burned up within five minutes of ignition.

Now imagine soaked furniture surrounded by walls under a ceiling.

Fire sprinklers can make a life-altering difference even if only needed once.

“Contents in a room can get wet but still be usable,” said Paul Eichler, who serves on the Delaware Volunteer Fire Association and Delaware Fire Sprinkler committees.

“Things can dry out but they can’t unburn.”

During this month’s official Home Fire Sprinklers Week, Mr. Eichler planned to demonstrate how valuable water can be in avoiding a potentially devastating blaze.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cancel or postpone events daily, a tentatively planned educational sprinkler demonstration seems unlikely as well. The event was tentatively planned for sometime between May 17-23 at the Delaware State Fire School in Dover.

The would-be demonstration was financed through a $500 stipend from the nonprofit Home Sprinkler Fire Coalition and State Farm Insurance. Mr. Eichler said any update will be posted on social media, including the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s Facebook page.

The plan was to burn identically sized separate rooms, one with fire sprinklers, the other without. The results would be quite predictable, Mr. Eichler said.

“In the Fire Service we know that the sooner water gets on a fire, the sooner it will be extinguished and other hazards will be minimized,” said Mr. Eichler, a member of the Dover and Anne Arundel County, Md. fire departments.

Plus, local fire companies are increasingly challenged to find volunteers to fill trucks, Mr. Eichler said. Each call that arrives lessens the chance of a full response for the next one unless a neighboring department has time to cover.

“Every fire company is currently facing recruitment and retention concerns,” Mr. Eichler said. “They’re studying how to best fill an available crew. These days, when a fire company responds to a fire, they’re going to strip an area of coverage if anything else arises.

“There’s often not the resources for a second response, so a backup fire company may be needed and the coverage capacity grows even thinner than it already was.”

Selbyville resident Sher Grogg lost her sister, brother-and-law and their four grandchildren to a residential fire in Annapolis, Md. in January 2015. She joined the fire safety advocacy coalition Common Voices in the aftermath and now regularly shares their story publicly.

“I didn’t realize how fast fire could move,” Ms. Grogg said. “Flames were shooting through the house within three minutes of the smoke detector’s alert.”

Ms. Grogg says a three-step plan can greatly lessen the odds of a tragic outcome like her family experienced – having working smoke detectors, an escape plan and a water sprinkler system.

“You’re at the greatest risk at home where you feel the safest,” Ms. Grogg said. “A lot of people are not informed and probably never think it can happen to them.

“I used to think you have 15 minutes to get out once a fire starts but it’s much less time than that. There’s more flammable and toxic materials involved in construction now and now something can become engulfed in a matter of moments.”

More information is available online at fireadvocates.org.

Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company plans to use its stipend proceeds by conducting a side-by-side burn demonstration at its annual open house on Oct. 4. The New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory is also slated to contribute to the effort.

According to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition:

• Without sprinklers, today’s home fires become deadly in as little as two minutes.

• These fires put residents and firefighters at risk from toxic smoke, heat and flames.

• With sprinklers, in a home fire the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate when the temperature reaches about 165F.

• The sprinkler will spray water directly on the fire, controlling or putting it out. In most home fires, just one sprinkler activates.

More information is available online at homefiresprinkler.org.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.

“You’re at the greatest risk at home where you feel the safest,” Ms. Grogg said. “A lot of people are not informed and probably never think it can happen to them.

“I used to think you have 15 minutes to get out once a fire starts but it’s much less time that. There’s more flammable and toxic materials involved in construction now and now something can become engulfed in a matter of moments.”