Letter: Fatal Fire Could Have Been Prevented
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The fatal apartment fire in New Holstein that killed a 42-year old woman and injured four people Jan. 4 is a tragic reminder that occupants are not always safe in the places they call home. The winter season especially can be a dangerous time for residential fires.
Statistics from the United States Fire Administration and nonprofit National Fire Protection Association report an increase in cooking fires and fires caused by space heaters at this time of the year. This fatality, the first of the year in Wisconsin, is a sad reminder as to why fire sprinklers in new construction are present in national model fire and building codes from both of the major code-governing bodies, the NFPA and the International Code Council.
Wisconsin state law now requires the installation of a fire sprinkler system in all new construction multi-family dwellings of three units and greater that went into effect Jan. 1, 2011. Unfortunately, a fire sprinkler system was not required by code at the time this building was built. A sprinkler system could have prevented the fatality, injuries and property damage.
According to the NFPA, having both smoke alarms and a sprinkler system present in a residential building greatly reduces the risks of dying in a fire, relative to having neither. Smoke alarms alert occupants of a fire, while fire sprinklers allow them to safely escape. Each sprinkler is individually activated by heat, so only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates, controlling or even extinguishing a fire in its place of origin and keeping toxic smoke and fumes from spreading.
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