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‘Buy time and save lives:’ Powerful demonstration shows effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems

MILWAUKEE -- It's a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems. The Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition on Thursday, April 19 featured a live fire demonstration of fire sprinklers.

"Fire sprinklers buy time and save lives," said Michael Wos, Executive Director of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Charitable Foundation.

The two rooms are nearly identical -- but attached to the ceiling in the room on the left is a lifesaving tool.

"We are gonna set both off at the same time," said Martin King, National Fire Sprinklers Association.

Firefighters set a small fire in the garbage can in each room. Smoke alarms went off 15 seconds later. At 30 seconds, the sprinkler kicks in, knocking out the fire in the room on the left. While the fire next door grows.

"If this was in a house, the thick black smoke would be down to the floor," said King.

Eager to do what they do best, Town of Brookfield firefighters hit the flames with a little water, but it's not enough. Five minutes later, fire consumes the room. It's called "flash over."

"Temperatures at "flash over" will reach 1,200 degrees at the ceiling and 400 degrees at the floor. You can't last more than a few seconds or a few breaths," said King.

Sprinklers are not required for new home construction. Advocates hope demonstrations like this one will push homeowners to install them anyway.

"It buys occupants time to get out, and not only does it keep occupants safe, it keeps our firefighters safe," said Wos.

According to the National Fire Sprinkler Association, adding a sprinkler system to a single-family home at the time of construction adds roughly three percent to the total construction.

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