'Hard to put a price on your life': Firefighters show off effectiveness of sprinklers

Without a sprinkler system, this fire engulfed the small room. (Source: NBC12)
Without a sprinkler system, this fire engulfed the small room. (Source: NBC12)
Updated: May. 10, 2018 at 6:15 PM EDT
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Richmond and Henrico fire departments, along with members of VCU Fire Safety, teamed up Thursday to demonstrate the effectiveness of indoor sprinklers if a fire were to break out in your home.

Firefighters ignited two living room setups outside the Fire Training Academy in Henrico. Only one had a sprinkler.

The difference was stark:

After about five minutes, the living room without a sprinkler was fully engulfed. In the same amount of time, the room with a sprinkler was reduced to small flames.

On average, it takes firefighters about four minutes to respond to a home. If these demonstration fires happened in real houses, the house without the sprinkler could easily have gone up in flames.

Anyone inside may not have made it out.

"In five minutes, that room was totally consumed with superheated air, gasses and flames. Nobody could survive in there," said Bill Willis, Assistant Director with VCU Fire Safety.

The chances for saving the home - and lives - were greatly increased with the sprinklers.

"The fire may not be put out (completely), but at least it can control the fire from spreading to allow you and your family to get out," said Willis.

The sprinkler turned on as soon as it sensed 135 degree heat.

"That fire was suppressed by the sprinkler system in about a minute and a half," said Deputy Fire Marshall Earl Dyer.

An indoor sprinkler will only activate in the room where it senses the fire, so the entire home won't get damaged by water.

Installing sprinklers can be pricey. For an average 2,200-square-foot home, a sprinkler system could cost about $3,500, according to the Fire Protection Research Organization.

But for people who've suffered the loss of a loved one in a fire, that cost would likely not have been a consideration, if it meant saving their family.

"It's kind of hard to put a price on your life," said Willis.

Some insurance companies many reimburse homeowners 10 to 15 percent of the cost of installing sprinklers.

The Cobb Lumber Company and Virginia Sprinkler donated materials to make the demonstration possible.

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