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A Tale of Two Fires (with very different endings)

February 10, 2012

Two different fires last week.  Both occurred in residences.  One was in a home, the other in an apartment.  The difference is that the apartment complex had residential sprinklers.  The apartment fire started in the toaster.  For some reason the toaster did not pop back up when it was done toasting.  The occupant finished the rest of breakfast, forgot there was anything in the toaster and left for work.  The toaster kept on heating until it melted all of the plastic and caught fire.  The nearby coffee machine started to melt down too.  There was limited fire damage to the wall, the counter top and the cupboard overhead.

Then the sprinkler went off.  A single sprinkler head went off due to heat from the burning toaster.  It quickly extinguished the fire.  Yes, there was water damage (32 gallons per minute for a single sprinkle head will do that).  In fact, our crews used more squeegees than they used fire hose.  The occupant was not allowed to stay there while the unit was dried out.  However, the rest of the building had zero fire damage.  All of the other occupants were able to continue occupying their apartments.  Our fire investigation took two investigators less than one hour on scene to complete.

Last August, the City of Spokane had an apartment fire near Division and Magnesium.  That fire damaged 24 apartment units and the building is still undergoing renovation.  Our apartment fire last week got things wet, did some cosmetic fire damage in the kitchen, and required replacement of the toaster and coffee maker.

Then there was our other fire last week.  It was in a home with no sprinkler system.  The smoke detectors were also not working.   The building was pretty much destroyed and there was one fatality in that fire.  The fire investigation involved seven investigators, four different agencies, and five hours of scene time.

Obviously there is a radical difference in the impacts of the two fires.  It was the sprinkler system that made the difference.

Fire sprinkler systems can be designed into residential home construction.  If you’ve got questions about residential fire sprinkler systems, we’ve got information.  You’re paying taxes for us, put us to work.  We’ll sit down and answer any questions you may have.

You can contact our Fire Prevention Division at 466-4602, or e-mail me at, or post questions on this blog.


From → Fire Prevention

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