Demonstration shows importance of fire sprinklers 

  • A fire in a home without a fire sprinkler can cause extensive damage in a short amount of time as seen at the live fire demonstration in Hadley on Thursday.  STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

  • A “live burn” in Hadley on Thursday demonstrated the importance of having sprinklers in a home and how quickly a fire can erupt.   STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2018 12:20:37 PM

HADLEY — A simple trash fire could quickly escalate into a devastating, powerful fire without a working sprinkler system in a home or residential building. 

On Wednesday, the Hadley Fire Department oversaw a live burning to demonstrate the difference between a sprinkler protected room and a non-protected room in the parking lot of the Hadley Farms Meeting House. A mobile trailer provided by the Massachusetts Office of the State Fire Marshal contained identical couches, tables, and curtains, and within moments, a small fire in the non-protected room quickly engulfed the furniture in a massive flare. 

“Consider this: it is usually two or three minutes before the fire department ever gets called,” said Michael Mazza, a trooper with the state Fire Marshal’s Office. “Not arrives, but gets called to a scene.” 

Smoke began to quickly build in the non-protected room, and after 24 seconds the smoke detector began to go off. The curtains, trash, and blanket quickly went up in flames. “It’s probably about 600 degrees in the house right now,” Mazza said. 

Just about a minute and fifteen seconds after the flame started in a trash can, Mazza said it was approximately 1,000 degrees at the ceiling level as flames began pouring out of the small room of the mobile trailer. A few seconds later, Hadley firefighters doused the flames with a hose only two minutes after the initial trash fire. 

“We are trying to impress upon the public how rapid fire is,” Michael Young, New England regional manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association, said during the demonstration. 

Within two minutes, the fire left all the furniture within the room destroyed. Mazza said that often when homeowners try to put out a fire themselves it can have “dire consequences” considering how quickly the flames took to reach flashover, or the point when all combustibles in a room ignite at once.

The second room in the trailer had a sprinkler designed to go off at 150 degrees. It began just like the first room with a small flame in a trash can, and within only seventeen seconds, the sprinkler went off. 

Although a small flame remained after the sprinkler went off, it was restricted to the trash can and it tempered the flame. If the flames continued to grow, the sprinkler would go off again, Young said. 

The sprinkler uses less water than a fire hose, Young said, limiting water damage to a home. Additionally, a sprinkler dousing the flame early on limits the amount of carcinogens firefighters are exposed to when they enter a building.  

The demonstration concluded the sixth annual NoFIRES Conference, a two-day collaboration between the Northwestern Youth Fire Intervention Response, Education and Safety Partnership (NoFIRES) and supported by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the State Fire Marshal, the Massachusetts State Police Fire & Explosion Unit, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Association. 

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