More sprinklers, narrower streets?

Sprinklers are the key to greater flexibility from the fire service, says Capt. Frank Kinnier, an assistant fire marshal with Chesterfield County (Va.) Fire & EMS. “You don’t have these massive fires when there are sprinklers, and you don’t have the need for as much apparatus” or water, he says.

For example, the International Fire Code requires aerial trucks for buildings over 62,000 square feet and more than 30 feet tall – which means a 26-foot clear lane on two sides, at least 15 feet and no more than 30 feet from building faces.
With sprinklers, the code allows 124,000 square feet and one 26-foot clear lane.

Sprinklers also reduce fire flow (amount of water coming from hydrants). For a typical one-story, 62,000-square-foot wood frame building, the required flow is 6,750 gallons per minute. If that building has sprinklers, it gets a 75 percent credit, which drops the required flow to 1,687 g.p.m.

If that building is unsprinklered and catches fire in the middle of the night, firefighters learn of the blaze once it triggers alarms and blows out of the ceiling or windows. It’s big so once firefighters arrive, they’ll flow water at the 6,750 g.p.m. rate for about 30 minutes, for 202,500 gallons.

With sprinklers, in most cases those nearest the fire (between one and five sprinkler heads) will handle it. Five sprinkler heads flowing at 26 gallons per minute use 3,900 gallons in 30 minutes.

“Water conservation,” Kinnier says. “And it’s even more powerful when you apply it to residential (buildings).”

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