Residential Fire Sprinkler Comparison

Post-fire picture of a room with a single residential sprinkler head activation. Nice save.

We conducted a comparison burn today at Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue to demonstrate the effectiveness of residential sprinklers in the control of incipient fire. Since I was off, I was able to video it as your ordinary citizen and the crowd, which was pretty nicely sized for the Island on a Saturday morning, was very impressed.

I posted it to my personal Facebook page, but felt like this was important enough of a video to share it with all of you Firehouse Zen readers. Feel free to pass it on. (UPDATE: These are now posted to YouTube also).

The teamwork involved in putting this presentation was very encouraging: all three shifts participated in one way or another, led by Chief Fire Marshal Joheida Fister.  It’s another reason the people I work with at HHIFR are individuals I consider to be the best in the business and make me proud to be associated with them.  The funds for creating the demonstration were provided through a grant. The building of the props were done by HHIFR personnel and local businesses (including my personal favorite, KPM Flooring) contributed elements of each room, lumber, the sprinkler system, and the installation.

The first burn is of an unsprinklered furninshed room of frame construction.  The inner walls are sheetrock.  In addition to an ordinary fire load in a bedroom, a small Christmas tree was at the front of each room (which surprisingly did not significantly contribute to the fire load in either case until well into the fire spread, as you will see).  The detector activated in the first room in 9 seconds, the room was untenable and very shortly after flashed over in under a minute.

The second burn is an identically sized and furnished room, the only exception being the presence of a residential sprinkler head.

As I have said on my FB page, if this doesn’t illustrate the live-saving capability of residential sprinklers, I don’t know what else to tell you. You can dry things off after they get wet. You can’t unburn your family or your home. But I am obviously preaching to the choir. Therefore, it is important that you all share these videos to many, especially the non-firefighters you know. This is important information and these two videos pretty graphically demonstrate the difference.

While there is a significant amount of undeserved controversy regarding residential sprinklers, especially the myths of inordinate cost, the whole “Hollywood all-the-sprinklers-going-off-at-once” myth, and a number of other things, the reality is that with smoke detectors and sprinkler installation, more lives will be saved and fire loss will decrease.  It’s a no-brainer.  But it IS a tremendous cultural shift and most homeowners, not being accustomed to this type of protection device, are on the fence.  They will continue to be on the fence so long as we are pushing systems and others argue against them.  This is the time when we need to be the driving force to push harder.

Share the video.  This is a game-changer and we need to be behind it, at least if we really do ascribe to the notion that our first responsibility is the protection of life and property.


  • Great videos and a fantastic example of how effective fire sprinklers are in domestic or residential dwellings. You guys in the states are not alone in that the public perception of sprinklers is the same here in the UK, infact we are behind in the education stakes. Your right its a no brainer these things save lives and im glad to see California and Pennsylvania states both adopting the 2009 IRC including its requirements for automatic fire sprinkler systems in new one- and two- family dwellings, effective date January 1, 2011. Videos like these help a great deal, infact id put them on my website if you would give me permission to?

  • truck6alpha says:


    Feel free to add it if it helps. I appreciate you reading our humble blog.


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