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Each Fire Makes a Hotter Argument for Sprinklers

July 10, 1988

Some fire safety officials in Orange County have been advocating that sprinklers, in addition to being mandatory in the construction of commercial buildings, also be a requirement in all apartment buildings and houses. Their argument took on added weight recently in two fires that occurred the same day in Anaheim and Irvine.

In one blaze in an Anaheim apartment complex, an overheated pan of french fries caused a kitchen fire that ultimately engulfed and destroyed the apartment--and seven others--before being brought under control. In all, the fire destroyed eight apartments, damaged two others, caused an estimated $350,000 in property damage and left 26 residents homeless, some of whom lost all of their possessions in the blaze.

Several hours earlier, in a cabinet shop in Irvine, a fire broke out on a workbench. Damage was limited to about $4,500. When firefighters arrived at the blaze, they found it under control.

The difference was that the cabinet shop had an automatic sprinkler system. The apartment complex didn't. If the apartments had had sprinklers, it is reasonable to assume that damage would have easily been limited to the apartment where the fire originated, perhaps even to only the kitchen area.

Fire prevention officials are sold on sprinklers and their safety value--for good reason. Sprinklers save lives and reduce property losses. Most fire deaths occur in residential fires. Last year in Orange County, 10 people died in fires in their homes.

The first few moments of a fire determine how fast and how far it will spread. Sprinklers retard the spread of fire until firefighters arrive. Without them, flames spread unchecked. Those simple observations should persuade public officials, and residents, of the wisdom of making sprinklers a part of all apartment buildings, and at least an available option in all new single-family homes.

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