Niles, MI – Sprinkler system contains pantry fire at nursing home

Around 8 a.m. Monday, the Niles fire department responded to a pantry fire that broke out at Chalet of Niles, a nursing and memory care center at 911 S. Third St.

Firefighters arrived to find the fire contained by a sprinkler head that was set off. No fire damage occurred.

A few residents were briefly evacuated during the fire, and one staff member who inhaled smoke and was sent to Spectrum Health — Lakeland’s hospital in Niles.

Fire chief Larry Lamb said the incident brought about two lessons.

First was the importance of properly taking care of items with oils on them. While the investigation is not yet complete, he said the department was confident that the fire started by rags that had been used to sop up oils in the kitchen.

Lamb said fires like this start when oiled rags are washed, dried and left in a compacted state, such as in a full laundry basket. The heat and the compacted nature lead to residue oil on the rags catching fire.

“If they do have to clean up those types of things, either don’t launder [the rags] or make sure that once you do launder them, they’re put in a safe place until they’re completely cool,” he said.

The second lesson Lamb thought the incident brought about was the importance of a sprinkler system. If a sprinkler head had not detected the fire, the situation could have been much worse.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well, what about the water damage?’ said Lamb, referring to discussions on sprinkler systems. “If there’s water damage, it’s only there because there would’ve been fire damage, which is much, much worse.”

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