Fire department open house shows need for sprinklers in Layton

Sep 29 2011 - 1:12pm

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NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner 
Layton firefighters William Elson (left) and Guy Hellewell extinguish a fire during a demonstration on Wednesday in Layton. The Layton Fire Department was showing how quickly fire spreads in a structure without a sprinkler system compared to a structure with sprinklers.
NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner 
Layton firefighters William Elson (left) and Guy Hellewell extinguish a fire during a demonstration on Wednesday in Layton. The Layton Fire Department was showing how quickly fire spreads in a structure without a sprinkler system compared to a structure with sprinklers.

LAYTON -- Smoke detectors as the sole fire-warning system for homes are outdated, city firefighters told people Wednesday at their annual open house.

Their recommendation for stopping fire in its tracks: residential fire sprinklers used in conjunction with smoke detectors.

Think fire sprinkler systems are just for commercial businesses?

Think again, and then think about the startling reality of the two to four minutes residents have to get out after a smoke alarm shrieks its warning signal.

That's compared to the nearly instantaneous reaction from fire sprinklers dousing a fire within seconds, giving residents more time to escape safely, said Layton Fire Marshal Dean Hunt. "When you use a residential sprinkler system, it gives occupants time to get out and nearly 90 percent of the time controls the fire," he said.

Residential sprinkler systems are not common, but firefighters hope to get word out that they are available from professional installers.

The open house gave a firsthand comparison of the two options.

A demonstration used two small rooms set up side by side in the parking lot of Fire Station 51 in West Layton.

In the demonstration, both rooms went up in flames. The room with only smoke detectors went into flashover mode, when everything burst into flames, in less than three minutes. In the room with fire sprinklers and smoke alarms, the fire was doused within seconds and left only a few smoldering hot spots for firefighters to shoot with a small fire extinguisher.

Jessica Alvarado, of Clearfield, was surprised by the huge difference between the two rooms.

"I thought it was really insightful because the one room without sprinklers was engulfed in flames so quickly compared to the room with the sprinklers," she said.

"It was also really insightful for the kids to see and understand how it gets super-hot, super-quick, and without the sprinkling system, it just blew up the room."

Also at the open house was a smoke trailer that gave people an opportunity to see how quickly a room can fill with smoke.

For Olivia McKay, 11, of Kaysville, it got a lot smokier than she thought it would.

"I was nervous that I might breathe in the smoke, so I held my breath and then I did what the firefighter told me to do by getting down and crawling on the ground to get out," she said.

Firefighter Jeff Bentley, who was helping with the demonstration, said, "Kids are very visual, hands-on learners. The more we can show them things, the more it builds their muscle memory for the real thing."

Several Cub Scout troops attended the event with their leaders to fulfill one of their requirements of visiting a fire station.

Layton resident Samuel Garrett, 8, learned about fire safety with his Cub Scout Wolf Den.

"I like this so we can always be safe, and in case we have a fire at our house, we'd know what to do," Garrett said.

On the minds of many of the firefighters running the open house was the person for whom the open house is named, Layton firefighter Kendall Bryant.

Bryant died while searching for victims in a house fire on March 31, 2000.

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