Northwest NEWS

August 24, 1998


Have sprinkler, will travel


Andrew Walgamott/staff photo

Part of the sprinkler training trailer's innards

by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--Industry representatives and local fire district officials recently came together to dedicate a mobile fire protection system training trailer.
   While the assorted metal works mounted on a flatbed trailer is difficult to understand at first, it was likened to a training station by one of the men who helped create it, Tom Barker, an inspector at Woodinville's Advanced Fire Protection, Inc.
   Complete with standpipes, pressure gauges, valves and an electronic control panel, it represents the six different types of sprinkler risers firefighters would find in offices, warehouses, ferry boats, gas stations, houses and apartment complexes, Barker said.
   There is also a simulated dry system, one which is partially filled with air. That type is used in garages or outdoors where freezing poses a problem to water sprinklers, he said.
   "To anyone looking at this, it is overwhelming. The homeowner is only going to see a small portion," Barker said, holding his hands about 12-inches apart on a riser representing the kind found in homes and apartments. "The rest is hidden."
   Firefighters will use the trailer to learn about the various components of each system and how to troubleshoot and fix routine problems.
   And, being mobile, it can be trucked to different fire stations and sprinkler workers throughout Puget Sound.
   A crowd of about 30 watched demonstrations of how individual sprinklers worked from the upper lot at Fire Station 31 Aug. 11.
   One of those in attendance, state Fire Marshal Mary Corso, called sprinkler systems the "24-hour firefighter."
   "I think it's important for everyone to understand the significance a fire sprinkler system can have in our lives," Corso said. She said 50 to 75 people a year die in fires with most of those losses in the home.
   "My ultimate hope with this," said Barker, "is training people how lives can be saved. If the Bremerton building would've had [sprinklers]...a lot of lives would have been saved."
   Last November, the 140-unit Kona Village Apartments in Bremerton burned, taking four lives and leaving 150 people homeless.
   The City of Woodinville requires automatic sprinklers for all new buildings in excess of 10,000 square feet, for certain residences, and for buildings where flammable and combustible liquids are stored, according to Deputy Fire Marshal Joel Kuhnhenn, Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District. He said the city has also adopted state regulations for apartments and condos of three or more stories and 16 or more dwelling units.
   Asked why sprinklers aren't required everywhere, Barker said people have a misconception about sprinkler systems stemming from the deluge type used on ferries. During the demonstration, onlookers watched a fine mist drift out of sprinkler heads when they were triggered.
   Dave Leggett, WFLSD public fire educator, said the idea of sprinklers isn't so much to put out the fire, but to cool it down. According to fire district facts, residential fire sprinklers add between one and one-and-a-half percent to the cost of a new home.
   The trailer was conceived by WFLSD Battalion Chief Mark Emery and Lt. Chuck Mitchell of the Redmond Fire Department. The 18-foot long trailer was built by Woodin-ville's Garland Trailers; the sprinkler components were donated through an AFSA grant, and the system was engineered and assembled by Advanced Fire Protection. It took about a year for the trailer to come together. The finished value is estimated at $50,000.
   "This public-private partnership is a glowing example of what's needed in the fire service today," said WFLSD Deputy Chief Dominic Marzano.