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Sprinklers halt spread of apartment fire

Posted: March 2, 2012 4:09 p.m.
Updated: March 5, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Sprinklers that extinguished a stove fire at a Lugoff apartment Wednesday night prevented possible disaster if the blaze had spread to other units.

“This fire had the potential to be a major fire affecting a lot of people, including the safety of our firefighters, if the sprinklers were not there to stop the fire from spreading throughout the apartment and adjoining apartments,” said Lugoff Fire Chief Dennis Ray. “I cannot emphasize enough the value of having fire sprinklers, especially in apartments and homes, to give occupants a chance to exit the structure or be rescued before smoke inhalation occurs.”

The Lugoff Fire Department was dispatched to the Hallmark Apartments on Roy Truesdale Road in Lugoff for fire alarm activation around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday. Lugoff Truck 1 arrived on the scene within two minutes of the call to find the apartments evacuated and with the fire alarm and the fire sprinkler bell sounding, Ray reported. Ladder 10 and Engine 10 arrived soon after and firefighters entered the second-floor apartment where moderate smoke drifted from the doorway. Firefighters found that two sprinklers had been activated from the stove fire in the kitchen and extinguished the fire.

Firefighters shut off the sprinkler system and replaced the sprinkler heads to bring the system back in service, Ray said. They then placed an electric ventilation fan in the door and removed the smoke from the room. Fire damage was limited to the stove, microwave and cabinets. The apartment below also suffered water damage.

Ray said 84 percent of fires in the state occur in residential structures with 67 percent of those fires inside of one- and two-family homes.

“Fire sprinklers provide occupants the critical time within that 10 minute window to exit the building before life can no longer be sustained due to the deadly gases inside smoke. Smoke inhalation is the primary killer in home fires; getting out of the building before the air turns deadly is truly a matter of life and death,” Ray said.

Rapid notification of a fire with smoke detectors and rapid fire suppression with fire sprinklers offer the maximum life-safety benefits in a residential building, Ray said, and the apartment building where the fire occurred Wednesday contained both.

“The end result is often partial-to-total building and content loss from the fire as well as injuries sustained from breathing the toxic smoke; some resulting in death. In this case, the fire damage was minimal, occupants’ possessions were preserved, and no one was injured or killed from the smoke or fire,” the chief said. “The safety of our firefighters was drastically improved since the sprinklers extinguished the fire preventing a major apartment fire. We want this to be the new ‘norm’ in residential fires preventing needless civilian and firefighter deaths nationwide.”

The cause of the fire was ruled accidental from cooking and the total loss will be assessed by the insurance company, Ray said. Firefighters from Lugoff, Pine Grove and Blaney departments responded to the alarm by normal protocol. Two apartments were closed when the department shut off power to the rooms as a precaution due to the water from the sprinklers. The American Red Cross assisted the two families evacuated from the fire with temporary housing. All fire personnel left the apartments around 9:15 p.m.

 “Everyone; from the 9-1-1 dispatcher who managed the radio transmissions, to the firefighters, to the apartment management and occupants, did an incredible job working together to make sure everyone was safe and taken care of. Job well done!” said Ray.

The Lugoff Fire Department installs smoke detectors free of charge to those who cannot afford to purchase them or are unable to physically install them. Residents who need smoke detectors may call 438-2553 to schedule an installation. Ray also encourages anyone building a home to consider installing a simple residential sprinkler system during construction.

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