Demonstration Shows Fire Sprinklers Save Lives


In a matter of minutes, fire swept through a Grand Island home, burning pallets and charring the ceilings, even melting the window blinds.

"Well melted down," Division Chief Tim Hiemer said, holding the melted blinds in his hands.

The next room over is a different story. So why did one burn, while the other barely looks smoky? That's because one room had a fire sprinkler.

It gives families a fighting chance, even if it's not enough put the fire out, "but to give occupants a chance to get out of the house," Hiemer said.

The U.S. Fire Administration says residential sprinklers save lives, improving the survival rate around 80 percent.

Grand Island Fire Capt. Todd Morgan said, "A lot of your fires do happen at night, and with the sprinkler, that can take care of something like that."

The hang–up, at least for now, is the cost.

Fire Chief Cory Schmidt said, "To sprinkler a home is about the cost of carpet. So you're looking at $3–5,000 for an average size home."

Morgan added, "If you're going to spend $200,000 building a new home, a couple thousand dollars more to put a sprinkler system in, it's usually one or two heads per room. An average bedroom would take one sprinkler, so you're not talking a whole lot of added expense."

Building code requires them in commercial structures and that may extend to homes some day.

Chief Schmidt said, "I'm sure in the future are going to be standard, not next five or ten years, but in the future."

Only the sprinklers near the fire go off, and they now make ones designed to blend more in the home environment. Firefighters say sprinklers also improve conditions for them. A fire can double in size every minute or even every 30 seconds, and if it takes seven minutes to get from the fire station, to the home, with gear on, and into the fire, that makes a difference for firefighters too.

As the cost comes down, firefighters encourage folks to consider them.