The fire problem in America is in our homes. Between 2010 and 2014 there was an average of 358,000 residential structure fires each year. More than 90 percent of civilian fire deaths and 40 percent of firefighter fire ground deaths occurred at single family residential structure fires. During this five year span, an average of seven people died every day in residential fires.

Information provided in the March 2017 newsletter published by the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office, indicated there were 55 fire related deaths in Washington State in 2016. Twelve of the 55 deaths occurred here in King County.

The installation of an appropriate number of smoke alarms in residential buildings has had a positive effect on reducing the number of fire fatalities. However, in spite of the tremendous benefit afforded by smoke alarms, nearly 40% of residential fire deaths occurred in homes with working smoke alarms. Residential fire sprinklers are widely recognized as the next revolution in reducing our nation’s losses due to fire. Residential fire sprinklers are extremely effective in controlling fires and providing for a safe escape of the home’s occupants.

New homes in Lake Forest Park and Kenmore are frequently being constructed in locations that pose significant challenges to fire department access or in areas where water availability is inadequate for firefighting purposes. In these circumstances, some method of mitigating the lack of code compliance is needed. The installation of fire sprinklers is the most common and most effective mitigation selected for these situations.

On January 1, 2012, an ordinance adopted by the City of Kenmore that requires residential fire sprinklers to be installed in all new homes went into effect. It has been five years since that ordinance was enacted and fire sprinklers have been installed in 361 new single-family homes and 37 townhomes during that time. Each fire sprinkler is heat actuated so that only the sprinkler near the fire operates to control the fire spread and the production of toxic gases that can impede the ability for occupants to escape.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that if you have a fire in your home, the risk of dying is cut by about 50% when properly working smoke alarms are present, while your risk of dying is cut by about 80% in a home protected with an automatic fire sprinkler system. Additionally, NFPA states that the average amount of property damage per fire is reduced by about 70% when compared to fires where sprinklers are not present. With each new sprinkler system installed, our community becomes a safer and more sustainable place to live.

Fire sprinklers provide much more than added safety for the occupants. Sprinklers impact a wide variety of important issues, including:
• Increased safety for responding firefighters;
• A significant reduction in property damage;
• A reduction of toxic emissions from the fire. A recent study revealed a 97% reduction in toxic gas emissions;
• Significantly reducing water usage by eliminating the need for firefighting hose operations;
• Preventing contaminated water runoff from firefighting operations.

The Northshore Fire Department is a strong advocate for the installation of fire sprinkler systems in all new homes. Future generations of citizens will be safer due to the installation of these critical systems that will provide them protection from the ravages of residential fires.