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Battling residential fires

By Staff | Nov 29, 2011

Michael Pistella Cape Coral firefighters stand by as the sprinkler-less room goes up in flames Tuesday during the demonstration at Cape Coral CIty Hall

A live, side-by-side residential fire sprinkler demonstration Tuesday was deemed a success by organizers, despite little to no citizen turnout.

Sponsored by the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association and the Florida Chapter of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the demonstration was held at 4 p.m. just outside of Cape Coral City Hall. The event was open to the public.

The demonstration concluded a daylong seminar for fire and construction industry professionals on home sprinklers. The seminar, put on by Fire Team USA, was attended by fire marshals and fire prevention officials statewide.

The Cape Coral Fire Department and the Lee County Fire Marshals Association hosted the event.

“We have to educate the building industry and the residents about saving lives,” Cape Fire Marshal Alan Carter said Tuesday. “This is a start.”

Cape Coral firefighters douse the flames following the home sprinkler system demonstration near City Hall Tuesday. The room with the sprinklers — which put out the flames — is at the left.

He noted that a few citizens showed up for the live demonstration, but reiterated that the main goal behind the day’s activities was to get industry experts and elected officials together in one room and get them talking.

“It was educational,” Carter said.

The city’s building code currently does not require sprinklers in homes.

According to officials, sprinklers combined with smoke alarms increase the chance of surviving a fire by 82 percent, as compared to not using either.

While commercial sprinklers must be inspected and tested annually by fire professionals, home systems can be checked and tested by property owners.

Cape Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz brought the opportunity for the seminar to the city’s attention after talking with Fire Team USA while trying to gather research information for something else that he was working on.

Present for the live demonstration, he said the seminar “went very well,” but he was disappointed in the low public turnout for the demonstration.

“I was hoping for more,” he said, citing poor publicity as a possible blame.

Chulakes-Leetz explained that he felt the demonstration was important because it enabled people to really see the difference between a home fire with no sprinklers present and the ensuing damage, and one with sprinklers.

He noted that the sprinklers put out the fire in 14 seconds.

“At 14 seconds, 911 even hasn’t been called,” Chulakes-Leetz said.

He intends to sponsor a city ordinance next year that would make installing residential fire sprinklers in single-family homes and duplexes “cost neutral.”

For example, if a property owner pays $2,000 to install a system, that property owner would get that money back through incentives and such.

“To create value for the resident to do so,” Chulakes-Leetz said.

The ordinance would apply to new and existing residences.

According to Carter, Florida statutes provide homeowners with an up to 15 percent discount on insurance rates annually if sprinklers are installed.

The city currently offer no incentives for installing sprinklers, but a study has pointed to a 10 percent reduction in the impact fees for new homes.

Cape Fire Division Chief Tom Tomich called residential fire sprinklers “affordable” for property owners. He said they cannot replace what a fire department does, but they can help to minimize fire damage and more.

“It will add that increased survivability probability,” he said.

Tomich noted that he had hoped for a larger citizen turnout for the live demonstration, but said the city “scratched the surface” with the events.

“It was important to have as many people here who are players in the industry,” he said.