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Public Invited to West Hartford Fire Department’s Controlled Burn

The West Hartford Fire Department will set two ‘rooms’ on fire in the Home Depot parking lot on Saturday, May 2, to demonstrate the effectiveness of residential fire sprinkler systems.

The West Hartford Fire Department will stage a side-by-side burn like this one on Saturday, May 2, to demonstrate the effectiveness of sprinkler systems. Courtesy image

The West Hartford Fire Department will stage a side-by-side burn like this one on Saturday, May 2, to demonstrate the effectiveness of sprinkler systems. Courtesy image

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford Assistant Fire Chief Michael Sinsigalli knows firsthand how quickly a “small” fire can turn into an inferno, and he and other members of the department, in conjunction with the Connecticut Sprinkler Coalition and the University of New Haven Fire Science Club, will be staging a dramatic demonstration on Saturday morning to show the impact that residential sprinker systems can have by not only minimizing damage to property, but also potentially preserving life.

“There’s a movement throughout the nation to have residential sprinklers required in new homes, to save lives,” Sinsigalli said. However, although the national building codes require sprinkler systems in all new residences – including single-family homes – constructed after January 1, 2012, Connecticut and most other states have not yet adopted that code, Sinsigalli said.

Sinsigalli is hoping that the public, as well as state legislators and the governor, will attend the side-by-side burn demonstration so that they can see the impact of fire sprinklers firsthand.

The demonstration will be held in the Home Depot parking lot, 503 New Park Ave., West Hartford, beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 2.

Two rooms will be built in the parking lot, with one wall left open for viewing. Both rooms will be identically furnished, but only one will have residential sprinklers. Both will be set on fire.

“The rooms will be built like regular rooms so people will be able to watch in real time how a fire that starts in a waste basket quickly involves the room,” Sinsigalli said. Both rooms will also have smoke detectors, and the public will see how much the fire has spread even before the detector is activated.

The sprinklers make a dramatic difference, Sinsigalli said. “When you see the lack of damage [to the sprinklered room], it’s amazing.”

The intent is not to require residential sprinkler systems for existing construction – something that would likely be cost prohibitive and nearly impossible to accomplish – but for new construction.

According to a release about the event, more than 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in the home and the purpose of the demonstration is to “help people of every age understand how dangerous a home fire is, and how important prevention, detection, suppression and escape are,” and in particular to demonstrate the life-saving value of residential sprinkler systems.

“We feel we can offer protection for future generations by sprinklering homes. Getting this into the code for new construction is an important benefit for overall life safety,” Sinsigalli said.

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