Fire Officials Show The Benefits Of Fire Sprinkler Systems

Thursday, April 25, 2013
Flames engulfed the non-sprinklered room in less than one minute. As Lt. Chuck Hartung pointed out to the audience, once the fire “flashes over” in the room, anyone inside -- including firefighters – would not be able to survive.
Flames engulfed the non-sprinklered room in less than one minute. As Lt. Chuck Hartung pointed out to the audience, once the fire “flashes over” in the room, anyone inside -- including firefighters – would not be able to survive.
- photo by Bruce Garner

Chattanooga fire officials conducted a fiery demonstration Thursday showing the value of fire sprinkler systems. At the Fire Training Center on Amnicola Highway, Fire Marshal James Whitmire showed an audience of about 50 people two demonstration rooms, one with a sprinkler head and one without. Both rooms had furniture and related items one might find in a nightclub or other business. New city council members Chris Anderson, Larry Grohn and Jerry Mitchell were in attendance.

After describing the setup, Lt. Chuck Hartung began the demonstration, starting the fire in the non-sprinklered room. A large clock on display showed just how quickly the fire engulfed the room. Though firefighters would be on the way, Lt. Hartung pointed out that no one would be able to survive in such a hostile environment. Simulating an actual response, firefighters with Quint 10 quickly extinguished the flames.

It was then time to light the fire in the sprinklered room. The clock was restarted, but this time, long before the flames could engulf the room, the sprinkler head activated and the fire was extinguished. This incident, Lt. Hartung pointed out, was survivable.

Chief Whitmire acknowledged the new sprinkler ordinance is controversial, but when lives are at stake, the answer is clear. “Sprinklers save lives and property,” said Chief Whitmire, “and when you see how devastating these fires can be, they just make good sense.”

“Many people are aware of the nightclub fire in Brazil earlier this year that killed more than 200 people, or The Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island in 2003 that killed 100 people,” said Chief Whitmire. “The same questions are asked after each event: How could this happen and how can we make sure it never happens again? This sprinkler ordinance goes a long way toward answering those important questions.”

The Chattanooga City Council approved the upgrade to the fire codes on June 28, 2012 that requires legally-defined nightclubs -- businesses with live entertainment that serve alcohol after 11 p.m. to 100 or more people – to install fire sprinkler systems by Dec. 31. Similar ordinances have already been implemented in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis.

Others in attendance included safety and security personnel width Cleveland State Community College, Southern Adventist University, Tennessee Temple University and UTC.

Click here to see a short clip of the demonstration.

Once the flames became visible in the sprinklered room, the sprinkler system activated and completely extinguished the fire. As Lt. Hartung pointed out, this fire was survivable.
Once the flames became visible in the sprinklered room, the sprinkler system activated and completely extinguished the fire. As Lt. Hartung pointed out, this fire was survivable.
- Photo2 by Bruce Garner


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