A fire that erupts in a home with no sprinkler system can blaze for critical, life-changing minutes, reducing a room to flames and smoke before firefighters can make it to the scene.
Sprinklers can extinguish the blaze quickly on their own, often before emergency crews arrive.
Harper College’s Fire Science Technology Department staged a live, public demonstration of that difference this week, igniting a small fire in side-by-side, outdoor chambers.
Both chambers were furnished to look like living rooms, and both were life-size.
But only one had a sprinkler system.
The demo was intended as a lesson for both Harper’s fire science students and the community, Associate Professor and Fire Science Technology program coordinator Sam Giordano said.
It seemed to do the job.
The blaze quickly engulfed the first, sprinkler-less chamber – turning it into charred, blackened rubble and sending a billowing cloud of smoke and fire into the air above the transfixed crowd before Palatine firefighters, who were there to assist, extinguished it with a dousing of water.
The sprinklers in the second chamber, meanwhile, efficiently saved that room from a similar fate.
“Time is the biggest enemy in any fire, and demonstrations like this one are outstanding illustrations of the drastic difference that sprinkler systems can make,” Giordano said. “It’s vital for our students to see this, and it’s equally important for local residents to see it and to understand the importance of sprinkler systems.”
Sprinklers are mandated for new homes in some suburbs, but plenty of other towns have no such rule.
Each year, more than 4,000 Americans die and 20,000 are injured in fires – with the vast majority of those fatal blazes occurring in private homes.
Harper’s Fire Science Technology program offers associate degrees and accelerated degree-completion options for current public safety professionals.
For more information, call 847.925.6707.