Last Friday’s construction site fire in Raleigh, NC was a devastating incident for the City of Raleigh and all those impacted. News outlets and social media gave us all a first glimpse of the devastation, but we also observed the success stories in the properties saved because of firefighters and fire sprinklers. Buildings adjacent to the burning structure were saved by fire sprinkler systems that operated when glass windows failed from the heat of the fire exposure. Were it not for fire sprinklers reacting fast and firefighters following up, the fire could easily have spread into several adjacent structures.
Among the nearby businesses that were saved was the office of the North Carolina State Firefighters’ Association (NCSFA). “Fire sprinklers saved our building and our office contents. Without them, we would have lost everything” shared Tim Bradley, NCSFA Executive Director. “Some of our stuff got wet, but it’s still there and will dry out.” Because fire sprinklers are individually activated by intense heat, the only sprinklers that operated were near windows that failed from the heat of the nearby fire. In other areas, where sprinklers weren’t needed, the contents remained dry.
Shane Ray, President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), former fire chief and state fire marshal added “Had it not been for the fire sprinklers in adjacent buildings, many more firefighters would have been in harm’s way trying to save those buildings. Fire sprinklers minimized property damage, saved the property tax rolls, ensured sales tax continues, and saved many jobs at businesses that might otherwise have been destroyed.”
Although the building under construction that caught fire was required to have fire sprinklers, the sprinkler system wasn’t completed or operational at the time of the fire. Shane Ray added that had the fire occurred after the building was complete, a fire would have been a non-event. Fire sprinklers would have operated when the fire was small, and the fire would have been controlled and contained to the area of origin until the fire department arrived and completed extinguishment and salvage of the remaining property.
For more information about the NFSA or to comment, visit www.nfsa.org. We provide resources to the fire service, building safety professionals, policy makers and citizens. Also visit www.highriselifesafety.com to see a whiteboard animation demonstrating the value of fire sprinklers and how they work.