Judging Packet for State VA

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					Judging Packet for State:

Essay Number: 2004100600013
Gallion, Rebekah
4950 Bradshaw Rd.

Salem, VA 24153

Guardian Information:
Deborah Gallion

School Information:
Glenvar High Scool
4549 Malus Dr.

Salem, VA 24153
Couselor: Ted Williams
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2004100600013

Melrose Towers, Roanoke, Virginia

I'm sure the view from the sidewalk outside the Melrose Towers on April 15th 2003 was that

of bewilderment. The fire alarm sounded alerting the residents, who were predominately

elderly and disabled, to leave the building. At 4:40 PM the building was evacuated. Lisa

Reynolds, Building Manager for the Melrose Towers spoke on the cause of the fire, saying

that it began from an abandoned cigarette[4]. The fire originated on the fourth floor,

specifically a couch had caught on fire. Fire- EMS workers responded promptly, however

the sprinkler system had prevented the spread of the fire, and completely extinguished it

before rescue personnel could respond[1]. Only the sprinkler in the lounge area of the

apartment activated[4].All persons, with the exception of fourth floor residents, were allowed

back to their rooms, shortly after the incident. Fourth floor residents were detained due to

water in the hallway, which had to be cleaned up before being allowed to return to their

apartments [1].

        In our daily lives we seldom stop to consider ourselves as potential victims of a fire.

Famine, plague, natural disasters, and fires rarely cross our path. The master plan which deals

with these tragedies when they occur, is largely handled by our federal, state, and local

governments. In our society, the farming industry is controlled to provide for our large

demand for food, and the medical profession has done wondrous things with illnesses that

once killed thousands, almost eliminating the fear of a plague. Finally, yet closest to our

lives, is the protection from natural disasters and fires through early warning, fire prevention,

response, and control. In March, 1998, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore ordered replacement

of sprinkler systems, then installed in state and government buildings " to prevent

disaster."[2] The system which had been installed was manufactured by Omega, long used in

Virginia office buildings, university hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and correctional facilities.

There was suspicion that the Omega sprinkler system was having a tendency to malfunction
in crisis situations. Tests conducted by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department

produced a 35 percent failure rate of the Omega system. Officials however, contested that

actual fire conditions cannot be simulated in a laboratory, therefore the tests are inaccurate in

predicting sprinkler head failure in actual fires. The nation's second top manufacturer of fire

sprinklers, Central, shows that Omega became its top seller, due to it's swift activation. Omega

sprinklers generally responded in 14 seconds, compared with 90 seconds for its competitors.

The manufacturer attributed the sprinkler failures to either contamination or abuse of the

system, not structural defects. One thing is evident through all the controversy; the

government is truly concerned with the safety of its citizens by insisting upon the best and

the most efficient fire sprinkler systems available[2].

We are strongly encouraged by industry experts to install smoke detectors in our homes.

While these provide a warning system, they cannot help those who are physically unable to

evacuate themselves, such as small children and the elderly. A higher level of life safety can

be provided by sprinkler systems. Statistically, in a fully sprinkled facility, there has never

been multiple loss of life. The evidence supporting the benefits of fire sprinkler systems is

undeniable. The installation of a sprinkler system in a new residential home is approximately

one percent of the total cost for the construction of the home. This inclusion can often

provide discounts on home insurance. Why don't people offer themselves and their loved

ones the added protection and peace of mind that a proven system offers?

Often consumers worry that in the event of a fire, which activates the sprinklers, that the

damage caused by the water from the sprinklers will be more extensive than the actual

damage from the fire. This is simply not so. There is a documented 85 percent decrease in

loss of property in homes with sprinklers, compared to those without them. Sprinklers are

designed to contain the fire until rescue personnel can respond to the site. Quick-response

sprinklers release 8-24 gallons of water per minute, compared to an uncontrolled blaze

requiring a fire hose, which releases 50-125 gallons of water per minute. A fairly small fire,

quickly controlled by the sprinklers will not need the force of a fire hose, thereby preventing
significant water damage. Along with these facts comes the little known information that in

the event of a fire, not every sprinkler head in a building will typically respond. Each head is

temperature sensitive, only activating where there is a fire. Most residential fires are

controllable by a single-sprinkler head. A study on the number of sprinkler heads used to

control a fire found that 90 percent of all fires were controlled with six or fewer heads

activated [3]. The residents of the Melrose Towers in Roanoke, Virginia certainly must have

had renewed faith in the sprinkler system protecting their building. Their story of success is

not the only one. Overall injuries, loss of life, and property damage can be reduced by about

50 percent, through the use of automatic sprinklers and early warning systems in public

facilities as well as in homes[3].
Essay Number: 2004100600013


1.Morrison, Shawna. Melrose Towers Fire Burns Couch, Causes No Injuries. The Roanoke

Times.; online. < http://nl.news bank..com/nl-search/we/Archives?

p_action=doc&p_docid+0FA8EDAEF39E9...>, 2003.

2.Baskervill,Bill.Virginia Governor Bans Sprinklers. Associated Press.; onlinehttp://

www.pnaix.com/~dannyb/sprinkler-04.ap >2003.

3.The Fire Sprinkler Network. Sprinkler Information.; http://www.sprinklernet.org/

sprinklerinfo/ 2003.

4.Reynolds,Lisa. Interview. Phone.; 9 Sept, 2004
Essay Number: 2005010401871
Meehan, Caitlin
5433 Sequoia Farms Drive

Centreville, VA 20120

Guardian Information:
Myles & Elizabeth Meehan

School Information:
Westfield High School
4700 Stonecroft Blvd.

Chantilly, VA 20151
Couselor: Marcy Miller
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010401871

AFSA Scholarship

After recently researching and reading an account of a successful fire sprinkler evacuation, I

never realized how important fire sprinkler systems are to fire prevention. I have seen fire

sprinklers in my school and in office buildings and retail stores, but I never really stopped to

think how they worked until talking with my neighbor, who happens to be a firefighter with

the Fairfax City, Virginia, Fire Department. He was kind enough to explain to me that fire

sprinklers are like firefighters. The sprinklers have a decoder button that detects smoke and

heat. When there is enough smoke and heat in a given environment the sprinklers will

activate and spray water in a cone type shape. He recommended I speak with a colleague

and fellow firefighter. After a few missed phone calls I finally spoke with Captain Keith

Cunningham. He was very helpful and informative and suggested some internet sites, such

as www.homefiresprinkler.org, which stated that eight out of ten fire deaths occur in the

home and that installing both a smoke detector and fire sprinkler system reduces the risk of

death by 82%. This is a startling fact! He also suggested www.homefirefightingsystems.com,

which provided information on other home fire protection products. In addition he promised

to send me some information regarding fire sprinkler systems and how they help firefighters

extinguish fires. Included in the information was an actual account of the recent success of a

fire sprinkler system at a local university located in Fairfax County, Virginia.

On December 5, 2004 the George Mason University Police Department called the Fairfax

City Fire Department and said they smelled smoke in one of the buildings, but could not

locate the source. Within minutes the squad was on the scene and located the fire. However,

when they arrived at the burning classroom the fire was nearly extinguished due to the fire

sprinklers. They was some residual water damage to the classroom estimated at $3,000, but

when compared to the amount of damage which would have occurred had there not been a
fire sprinkler system in place, this was a small price for the University to pay. The cause of

the fire has not been determined, but sources say that students were there prior to the fire.

The report is still under investigation, but thankfully no one was injured.

The follow up report that the Fairfax City Fire and Rescue Center drafted indicated that there

were two fire sprinklers which extinguished the fire located in a 1,000 square foot size

property. Since the fire sprinklers were operating the fire did not spread and was confined to

the same room it started in limiting the amount of property damage. The type of sprinkler

used at the University is called a "wet-pipe" sprinkler system. The Homefire Sprinkler

Coalition states that 90% of fires are contained by the operation of just one sprinkler.

The success of fire sprinklers can have a tremendous effect in many areas. Not only do they

save lives of potentially trapped victims, but the lives of firefighters as well. It reduces the

amount of damage sustained by fires and therefore reduces the financial liability. Fire

sprinklers can also have a varying effect in fire protection. If a fire were to occur in your

home and a fire sprinkler system had been installed the activation of the system would begin

to extinguish the fire while the Fire Department was on its way. This is extremely helpful if

the Fire Department isn't close to your home. The sprinkler systems also help to reduce the

work of the firefighter, although some may argue that due to the efficiency of fire sprinkler

systems fire departments aren't hiring as many firefighters. Regardless, it is important that all

buildings, schools, libraries, etc., have a fire sprinkler or sprinklers, depending on size,

located in every room. In addition, homes should be equipped with fire sprinklers on every

level of the home. The cost of a fire sprinkler system is miniscule compared to the cost of

smoke and fire damage to property not to mention a life.

After learning so much about fire sprinkler systems, I have certainly come to the conclusion

that without them, fires would be more destructive and could spread more rapidly causing
more damage and risking more lives. There is no better investment than the peace of mind

of a fire sprinkler system.
Essay Number: 2005010401871

1.     Grisham, Elizabeth. "Fire Damages Fine Arts Building." Broadside. Volume 75,

Issue 12.

2.     Public Incident Report: December 28, 2004. http://s922kmb08/firearms/dynamic


3.     Home Firefighting Systems. Western Datalynx Inc. 1998-2004. http://


4.     "Fire Service." Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. 2003. http://

Essay Number: 2005010102068
Lick, David
12011Stonehenge Dr.

Fredericksburg, VA 22407

Guardian Information:
Joanne Lick
(540) 786-6064

School Information:
Chancellor High School
6300 Harrison Rd.

Fredericksburg, VA 22407
(540) 786-2606
Couselor: Julian Kilmartin
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010102068

        After a long day of playing fetch and jumping around the yard with the kids, all that

I look forward to is a good rest in front of the fireplace. Ahhh, the life of a dog sure is a

good one. Now I just need to get comfortable…yes…now that’s better. Now all I have to do

it- wait- what was that!? All I hear is a loud beeping and yelling, an explosion and lots of

screaming, there is smoke and hot fire, and now, oh goodness, what is there to do!? Get out,

get out!! Follow the family- hurry, run, run - I have to get out of the house…

        This was the scene at the Wohler family residence in Kensington, Virginia on the

night of December 27. Just after the family Christmas, this startling disaster shook the calm

suburban neighborhood and awakened everyone around. [1]

        The Wohler family was well known, highly respected and loved by their friends and

neighbors, and simply loved by all who knew them. Therefore, it is both shocking and

deeply moving that such a tragedy had to strike a family as innocent and docile as the

Wohler’s. [2]

        Local firefighter Fred Payne helped me to understand this terrible accident and the

circumstances that surrounded it. He explained that the family lived in an older house, one in

which the furnace had not been replaced in years. Due to a backup in the gas pipe line

leading into the house, the gas slowly began to build up in the furnace itself, and thus, when

the machine lit it’s hourly fire to warm the house, the entire mechanism exploded, destroying

the surrounding house and striking fire to the entire area. [1]

        As everyone knows, it takes oxygen to fuel a fire and spread the flames to the

surrounding area, and much to the dismay of the Wohlers, it happened to be a very windy

night. [2] This wind made the flames more easily spread and much larger, becoming a quick

and potential life hazardous situation for the group in the house. As the furnace exploded,

the flames quickly caught the surrounding woodwork of the house itself and spread to the

rest of the area because of the dry nature of the winter (no moisture in the wood to fend off

the fire) and the windy night air.
        Fires of this type are classified as both Class A (fire in wood/solid materials) and Class

B (fire in a flammable liquid such as gasoline). [3] This combination led to an even more

dangerous situation for the firefighters themselves, for a Class B fire cannot be effectively

fought with the common tool of water. Often, these types of liquid fires must be fought with

a dry material like sand or (more commonly) a type of liquid foam which can easily quench

the fire’s thirst for oxygen. [3]

        Because at least part of the first was a Class A fire, here is where the family’s major

fire sprinkler came into play. They happened to have both fire alarms and a fire extinguisher,

both of which would not have been a major help in this situation, for the group was in far

too much panic to ever think of grabbing the red fire extinguisher. Still, the overhead

sprinklers, which activate automatically at the predetermined temperature (usually 186 F),

did help to kill off the deadly flames. [4]

        As the family attempted to escape from the house, the sprinkler was spraying it’s

liquid across the room, attempting to put out as many flames as possible with it’s wide-set

radius. [4] As Payne noted, the fire sprinkler was effective in activating and holding off the

flames at least for a little while, but could not have possibly killed the fire itself. It’s true

effect was in holding the fire off just long enough to allow the family members to escape and

the firefighters to arrive! [1]

        Thus, it was the fire sprinkler in the Wohler house that allowed them all to escape

safely. It held off the flames just long enough for everyone to get out of the house safely and

for the help to arrive in a timely manner, then extinguishing the flames and salvaging

whatever was left of the poor old house. As noted, the family had insurance and will be able

to reclaim most of the valuables that were in their house before this tragic accident. [2] Still,

it is not the valuables or even the house that are of true importance in a situation such as this,

it is the fact that everyone was able to escape, and do so safely and in a quick fashion- the

mother, father, children, and, yes, even the beloved family dog!!
Essay Number: 2005010102068

1.     Personal interview with firefighter Fred Payne on Dec. 30, three days after the


2.     NBC Nightly News. December 28, 2004, reporting on this accident.

3.     Columbia Encyclopedia. “Fire-fighting and apparatus”; Columbia, Sixth Edition,

2005.< www.encyclopedia.com>

4.     National Fire Sprinkler Association. “Fire-Sprinkler FAQ;” <3dfire.com/faq.html>
Essay Number: 2005010402141
Moorman, Nancy
6096 Arrington Drive

Fairfax Station, VA 22039

Guardian Information:
Gerard Moorman

School Information:
W.T. Woodson High School
9525 Main Street

Fairfax, VA 22031
Couselor: Tish Marshall
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402141

The Sudden Erudition

I attempted to start this project a few days ago, but I found it was far too difficult a task. Who

would have known that fire sprinklers are so renowned? When I fist saw the assignment

before me, I laughed at its simplicity. “This is going to be a piece of cake!” I haughtily said

to myself. Boy was I in for a surprise! After searching for literally, hours and hours, it

seemed all I could find were quotes such as, “Well, Jim, if there had been fire sprinklers, this

place would have been saved, what a rotten shame.”1 Doing this extensive research

exhausted me, and I threw my arms up in a desperate surrender, only to sit on the couch and

indulge in something easy, watching TV.

Over the next couple of days, I ventured with my family into downtown Washington D.C. to

see the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Within thirty minutes, I

found myself gazing toward the infinitely reaching ceilings, wondering where their fire

sprinklers were. Here I was in such a beautiful and captivating place, and I couldn’t get the

thought out of my mind of how inane it was to leave this majestic place so vulnerable. A

fancy little tidbit popped into my mind from the mounds of research I had done, and so, I

turned to my dad and said, “Hey dad, did you know that fire sprinklers were invented in the

1870’s by an American to protect his piano factory?” My father, used to my peculiar and

quite perplexing questions, simply added, “No, I did not, good to know.” He then proceeded

to look around at the ceiling; perhaps he was also wondering where the fire sprinklers were?

After returning from D.C., I was spurred by the curiosity to actually find a success story

about fire sprinklers. In my opinion, the public would rather hear about a rampant, raging

fire then one that had been quickly smoldered out by a small inanimate object. (This must be

the reason for so little publicity.) And so, it became a challenge for me, and I was determined

to find one no matter what, when lo-and-behold, I stumbled upon a great story.
It was April 27, a Tuesday, in the city of Peoria. A fire broke out at 6:15 in the morning in

the laundry room of a home still under construction. With no one living there, the house

could have easily burned to the ground. The Peoria Fire Department rushed to the scene,

where they saw water streaming out of the garage. The brave fire fighters entered the home,

not knowing what to expect. They rushed in to find that the small fire had been extinguished,

and what had accomplished this tremendous task was a single fire sprinkler strategically

placed in the laundry room. The house was valued at $300,000 but only suffered $7,500 in

damage, thanks to the real hero, the fire sprinkler. If the fire had spread, the construction

company, Fulton homes, would have had about eight months delay, but with our hero, it was

only about one week. The fire sprinkler was a truly ingenious design and pivotal factor in the

rescue of this home.

With all this newly acquired knowledge, one question looms on my mind, and I challenge

you to inquire it of yourself as well. If fire sprinklers save so many lives and are altogether

beneficial to us, why are they not in every building or every home across the nation? The

human race would be eminently safer. Think about it. If you were presented with the chance

to save your loved ones, wouldn’t you take that opportunity, and if it was economically

advantageous for you to save your company, shouldn’t you consider it? F. Andrew Boyd, a

wise architect, best summed it up when he explicitly stated, “If the medical profession were to

discover a safe, reliable treatment which saved more than 4,000 cancer patients annually, and

yet spent hours attempting not to use it, it would be considered morally reprehensible and a

serious breach of ethics. It seems amazing then that the building industry does this daily.”

1.      Not an actual quote.
Essay Number: 2005010402141

1.     F.Y.I. Fire Sprinkler Facts. National Fire Sprinkler Association. 27 Dec.

2004 <http://www.nfsa.org/info/fyi/sprfacts.html>.

2.     National Fire Sprinkler Association Northern Illinois Chapter. Northern

Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. 27 Dec. 2004


3.     Residential Fire Sprinkler Saves Home. City of Peoria Communications and

Public Affairs Department. 29 Dec. 2004

Essay Number: 2005010402243
Nauta, Jessica
308 Kinloch Court

Purcellville, VA 20132

Guardian Information:
Pieter Nauta

School Information:
Loudoun Valley High School
340 North Maple Avenue

Purcellville, VA 20132
Couselor: Diane Duvall
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402243

Although Purcellville does not have record setting amounts of fires during the course of a

year, it still is increasing in calls that have to be made daily to our fire department. However,

I spoke with the President of the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company, Rick Reaves, and was

told that most of our office buildings and restaurants are equipped with fire sprinkler


Although most of our fires are residential, there was an instance where a restaurant kitchen

caught on fire. A chef from Pen’s Oriental Kitchen was cooking a duck in the oven and the

duck caught on fire. Reaves could not tell me exactly how many fire sprinklers went off as a

result of the fire, but they were activated.

When the firefighters arrived at the scene, they put what was left of the fire out and checked

the surrounding area for signs of spreading. The restaurant was smoke filled so the

firefighters used positive pressure ventilation to evacuate the smoke. Fortunately, they

concluded that no one had been injured during the fire.

 Once the smoke was evacuated, they began to search for extensions of the fire. Reaves told

me that they use a thermal integer, which resembles a small video camera, in order to detect

fire in hidden places such as walls or ceilings. This is helpful because the firefighters can just

aim the thermal integer at the wall to check for more fire or heat instead of having to open

up the wall. When looking through a thermal integer an active fire will appear in a red/

orange color, while heat appears in white. This can also be used when a room is smoke filled

and a firefighter needs to find a person or exactly where the fire is in the room. They can

also obtain a visual of the room, such as furniture location, in order to move around more

Pen’s Oriental Kitchen was salvaged quite nicely due to the sprinklers and the thermal

integer. The fire was extinguished efficiently and it was not necessary to tear down walls in

order to ensure that the fire had stopped and all was safe. The repairs to the kitchen and

restaurant were quick and it did not take long for Pen’s Oriental Kitchen to open back up to

the public with a few new things such as menus and a few hangings on the wall.

The local media reported this as a kitchen fire, but did not comment too much on the fire

sprinklers. There was more smoke damage than water damage, so that was focused on more


There is a great need for more developed fire sprinkler systems and firefighters in Loudoun

County. With this county being the fastest growing county in the United States, and

Purcellville being in a higher cost area, there has been more strain put on our firefighting

system. This is evidenced by fact that the Purcellville Fire Company has been purely

volunteers since 1923 and just last week had to add paid staff for efficient daytime response.

In the past 20 years, calls have increased by %200.

David Ho refers to a device called an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter to detect bad wiring in

homes and even office buildings. Just a few years ago, my neighbor’s house burned down

after standing for about 4 years because when the house was built, a nail had been put

through a wire. The fire formed on the roof first however, so a sprinkler system might not

have been able to do much good in this instance, but if more people installed things such as

the Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter, and more advanced sprinkler systems, electrical fires as well

as fires based off careless errors, would be better prevented and taken care off. Cafe refers to

things such as microwave ovens, washing machines, television sets, and refrigerators that

cause fires every year.
According to Cafe, ovens are usually made out of a noncombustible material so the fire

hazard is reduced. However, if something was left on top of the stove, such as a towel, or the

controllers had a malfunction, a fire could occur. No matter how safe you think an appliance

is you should always be safe and do things such as turn it off when it is in use and don’t

leave things on top when it is still hot. Also, a good fire sprinkler activation system should

be installed just in case the fire gets out of control or people are not there when the fire

Essay Number: 2005010402243

1.     Cafe, Tony. “Electrical Appliance Fires,” <http://www.tcforensic.com.au/docs/


2.     Ho, David. “Device may reduce fires from bad wiring,” <http://www.detnews.com/


3.     Reaves, Rick. President of the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company (lifetime

member, currently served 20 years)
Essay Number: 2005010302251
Nelson, Christine
1820 Saint Roman Drive

Vienna, VA 22182

Guardian Information:
Brooke Nelson
703 281 4587

School Information:
James Madison
2500 James Madison Drive

Vienna, VA 22181
703 319 2300
Couselor: Brandy Hutchison
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010302251

Next month, the town of West Warwick, Rhode Island will commemorate an anniversary, but

it won’t be a happy one. February 20 is the two-year anniversary of the deadly fire at The

Station, a nightclub tragedy that claimed 98 lives. Fire safety experts say that a sprinkler

system would have prevented this loss of life. Thousands of Americans die in fires every

year; according to the National Fire Protection Association, no more than two have ever died

in a fire in a “fully sprinkled public assembly, educational institution or residential building

was working properly.” The Association notes the death rate in buildings installed with

sprinklers is 50 percent of those in buildings without working sprinklers.

        Sprinklers are life savers. Buildings should be required to install sprinkler systems in

order to save lives. Montgomery County, Maryland, which is near where I live in the

Washington, D.C. region, has approved new legislation requiring builders to install fire

sprinklers in newly constructed homes. The goal is to reduce property damage and save

lives. This is a very good idea because legislators are trying to lower risk and prevent damage

and death where it can be prevented easily. The State of Virginia, where I live, requires for

high rise buildings, some parts of hospitals, and nursing homes to have sprinkler systems

installed, which is a start, but most Fairfax County Schools do not have sprinkler systems. As

a student at a school with no sprinkler system, it amazes me that around 2,000 people can be

crowded together for seven hours in a day without such protection. Sprinkler systems should

be a requirement based upon the number of people in a building and not just the height.

        Although some buildings in Northern Virginia lack important sprinkler systems, a

sprinkler success story happened in the area recently. A four-story, 100-unit senior citizens

apartment complex in Prince William County caught fire in 2003. Firefighters rescued

almost 100 residents from their rooms. The fire was contained to the roof and one upper

floor of the complex because a sprinkler system had been installed. A local firefighter said

all the residents of the complex were saved because of sprinklers. Jared Goff, Chief Officer

with the Dale City, Virginia, Volunteer Fire Department said in his column on a firefighters’
website (www.withthecommand.com) that buildings without sprinklers “are failing the

firefighters who are trying to make rescues or extinguish these weak and unprotected

buildings.” The sprinklers in the retirement complex gave the firefighters the ability to rescue

the occupants without concern for their own safety because the fire did not spread.

        Similarly, a car dealership in Kingsport, Tennessee on the Tennessee-Virginia border

caught fire one night recently. The sprinkler system saved three-and-a-half million dollars’

worth of damage to the Fairway Ford in Kingsport, which did not even look like it had

caught fire. Rack Cross, a Certified Fire Inspector in the region, said, “Firefighters

commented to me last night during the investigation that they had very little fire to

extinguish because the sprinkler system had acted so well.” In this case, lives were not saved

but important property was saved from damage.

        Stories about the senior citizen apartment fire and the car dealership fire were not

reported widely. This is because the sprinkler systems did what they were supposed to do—

save lives and prevent damage. The media tends to cover fires which result in loss and

sadness, but when fires are extinguished or prevented by the use of sprinkler systems, the

outcome is a happy one.

        Unfortunately, not all fires can be contained. A Northern Virginia fire last July

became a tragedy that was covered extensively by the media because the condominium

complex did not have sprinklers. Three people died in the fire that destroyed the Manchester

Lakes complex in the Kingstowne section of Fairfax County. Lieutenant Mark Stone of the

Fairfax Country Fire Department said all three victims died of smoke inhalation in the blaze,

which caused nine million dollars in damage and displaced dozens of residents. One man

was hospitalized in critical condition after jumping three stories to escape the flames, which

spread rapidly from one building to the next. Lt. Stone said the complex was not equipped

with sprinklers. The fire also spread quickly because the condo buildings were only 34 feet

apart. “Due to the fire being so big, it was a very long time until we could safely get up to

certain areas of the building,” Stone said.
        Fire safety systems are installed in high-rise buildings today under federal law.

Shorter buildings such as Manchester Lakes, however, do not fall under these regulations.

Automatic sprinkler systems are designed to control a fire and keep it from spreading, as the

flames did in the Manchester Lakes fire.

        The laws should be made uniform throughout an area or the entire country. One

United States Congressman is trying to make these laws more uniform. Congressman Curt

Weldon of Pennsylvania introduced the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. He proposed this

legislation after a fatal nursing home fire in Nashville, Tennessee. “This deadly fire was a

horrific and preventable tragedy,” Weldon said on the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association

website. “It is disgraceful that in this day and age, a nursing home is not properly protected

from fire. I only hope my colleagues will continue to work with me to pass legislation… to

help install this lifesaving technology.” Congressman Weldon’s bill provides tax incentives

and encourages building owners to install sprinkler systems. Weldon said, “the longer we

wait, the longer we continue to put lives at risk,” according to www.sfacv.org.

        Sprinklers do save lives. I am in agreement with Congressman Weldon that we

should all take a step further to prevent fires from spreading and save thousands of lives

every year from something so small as a candle to something as big as fireworks. With

sprinklers, Americans will be safer. With sprinklers, 98 lives would have been saved that

February night in Rhode Island. With sprinklers, we can make a difference.
Essay Number: 2005010302251


1. Carroll, Stephanie. “Sprinklers Save Money and Lives.” TriCities.com. 2004. Consumer

Watch. 2 Jan 2005. <http://www.tricities.com/servlet/Satellite?


2. Goff, Jared. “How Many is Too Many?” With the Command.com. 2 Jan 2005.

< http://www.withthecommand.com/2004-May/VA-goffmany/html>

3. Nazarro, Stephanie. “Three Killed in Northern Virginia Condo Complex Fire.”

Firehouse.com. 2 Jan 2005.


4. “No Sprinklers, Wood Construction Fueled Deadly Condominium Fire.” News Channel

       8. 2 Jan 2005. <http://www.news8.net/news/stories/0704/158621.html>

5. “Police Officers Awarded for Courageous Team Effort.” Prince William County-

Residents/ News Releases and Publications. 2003. Prince William County,

Virginia. 3 Jan 2005. <http://www.co.prince-william.va.us/default.aspx?


6. “Sprinklers to the Rescue.” Count On EMC. EMC Insurance Companies. 2 Jan 2005.

Essay Number: 2005010402282
Mohon, Sara
633 Sam Snead Lane

Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Guardian Information:
Joseph Mohon

School Information:
Princess Anne High School
4400 Virginia Beach Blvd.

Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Couselor: Sheila Gorham
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402282

        You can learn a lot about almost anything over a cup of coffee at the Kempsville

Grill and Café. You can even learn about fire sprinklers when you listen to the stories of a

Norfolk firefighter named Dean. Dean came in about 8 AM just before Christmas weekend

and after his shift for the Norfolk Fire Department. He is always asked about what happened

at the fire station in case he has a real good story. This time his story was not sad with loss of

life or injury, nor was it about horrific property destruction. His story was about a fire

sprinkler system in a warehouse at the Norfolk Industrial Park. During his shift his fire

engine was the second to arrive at a fire in the Iron Mountain Records Management

warehouse.[1] The fire alarm had been called in by a security system that detected the

fire.[7] This enormous warehouse stored aisles of boxed and bundled paper records. It

would have made headlines if most of this huge fire load had ignited [2].

        Norfolk Fire Station No. 10 was the first to arrive with Captain Albin Coke in

command at the scene.[4] His firefighters began to suppress the fire with two hoses at the

source, a second story room.[5] Captain Coke stationed a man at the sprinkler system control

valve; when his two hoses were at the second story site, the control valve was ordered closed.

The firefighter remained at the control valve to initiate sprinkle system operation if ordered

to augment fire-fighting efforts.[5] With the sprinkler system off the two hose teams could

evaluate the fire scene better behind their two hoses. The hose teams determined very

quickly that they had the fire under control. Only about 500 gallons of hose water was

discharged from both fire hoses before the fire was called out.[5] The discharge rate of a

typical fire-fighting hose stream is 250-500 gallons per minute depending on the water

pressure.[6] A second fire station arrived and assisted in the fire mitigation by removing

smoldering debris and by making a complete inspection of the warehouse including the

roof.[1] About forty firefighters became involved with all aspects of the warehouse alarm

and spent about three hours at the scene.[5] Due to the containment of the fire by the

sprinkler system the time spent on the scene was short and there were no injuries to the
firefighters or to the warehouse employees.[4]

        The cause of the fire was reported as an electrical malfunction.[4] The malfunction

was an AM/FM radio that had been left on and started burning[5] but the official

investigation is not finished.[7] An inspection of the sprinkler system found that only five

sprinkler heads had actuated[4] in a warehouse of 110,000 square feet[7]. All five of these

heads were located at the scene of the fire.[4] The fire department informed the warehouse

management that the sprinkler system was secured before leaving the scene. Warehouse

management is responsible for having a sprinkler system maintenance company to replace

the open spray heads and returning the sprinkler system to a ready to operate condition.

        Area media requested information about the fire.[4] Norfolk Fire Department Public

Information Officer, Jeff Goldhorn, stressed to the media that the fire was contained to one

area due to the effective activation of the sprinkler system.[4]   This containment in turn

prevented additional property damage.[4] Sprinkler systems work![5]

        One of the Grill regulars expressed his beliefs that sprinklers in an industrial or even

in a residential building causes a big problem when it sprays water on electrical components.

Dean explained that electrical fires produce large amounts of opaque, corrosive, and toxic

smoke from materials used to manufacture insulation and electric components.[6] This

smoke makes manual portable extinguishers extremely difficult to use to fight the fire[6]. A

professional fire response team with a self-contained breathing system is preferred. Most

electronic and electrical equipment exposed to sprinkler water can be cleaned, rinsed with

deionized water, and dried.[6] Even if a person is unconscious in an electrical component

area where the sprinklers actuate, the chances of being harmed by the water discharge are

much less than from the deadly smoke inhalation.[6]

        Sparky, a retired Navy hull technician told a story about fire fighting on aircraft

carriers. His warning was that water on a burning liquid would spread the burning liquid.

Dean had an opposing view. Water absorbs convective heat above a fire to prevent structural

damage and ignition of nearby combustibles.[6] When applied to walls and ceilings and
liquids, it will provide a cooling reduction in temperature to keep materials from melting or


        By this time the cook had walked up and was listening. He wanted to know why all

the sprinklers had not worked. This time Dean hedged his opinion with the "I am no

sprinkling system engineering expert" phrase. Still his professional training was that most

sprinkler systems have heads that only operate when heat released by a fire melts the fusible

metal link that keeps the head closed and the open heads can be expected to be directly

above the fire seat.[6] Every individual sprinkler head must be opened in that fashion.[6]

        Dean had a real good story this day. But time run out and everyone has an errand to

do. Some people leave the café and others arrive. Dean finds a fellow who knows about

applying for college admission and they start talking how to pay for college tuition. There is

no telling what you can learn at the Kempsville Grill and Café.

        Sprinkler systems save lives and save time and save cost. Firefighters spend less time

at the scene of successful sprinkler activation. Firefighters can respond to the next call

instead of spending hours controlling a big fire. If a fire has a head start before the fire

department arrives, the officer in command may chose to let the fire burn out and

concentrate on preventing fire spreading to adjacent buildings rather than risk the safety of

Essay Number: 2005010402282

1. Dean Themides, Firefighter, City of Norfolk, personal interview December 23, 2004 8:30


2. Jeff Wise, Deputy Chief City of Norfolk, Fire-Rescue Office, phone interview December

28, 2004 10:30 AM

3. Jeff Wise, Deputy Chief City of Norfolk, Fire-Rescue Office, e-mail response December

28, 2004 4:00 PM

4. Jack Goldhorn, Public Information Officer, City of Norfolk, Fire-Rescue Office, e-mail

response December 29, 2004 12:15 PM

5. Albin Coke, Captain Firefighter, Station No 10, City of Norfolk, personal interview

December 31, 2004 11:00 AM

6. Plant Engineering; 6/1/2000; Dieken, Dominique @ Highbeam Research 1 January 2005


7. Dean Dixon, Operations Supervisor, Iron Mountain Records Management warehouse 455

Progress Road, Norfolk, VA, personal interview January 4, 2005 10:15 AM.
Essay Number: 2005010402303
Martin, Nathan
15024 Woodglen Court

Woodbridge, VA 22026

Guardian Information:
Steven Martin

School Information:
Forest Park Senior High School
15721 Spriggs Road

Woodbridge, VA 22193
Couselor: Catherine Bopp
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402303

Lack of Fire Sprinkler Safety

        When I began my research on this topic, I first decided to head to the local fire house

that is not even a quarter of a mile away from my house. After asking one of the men about

an incident involving fire safety, they had no idea of any previous fire rescues where fire

sprinklers aided their job. I then went to the Stafford Fire Rescue homepage and found no

educational topics whatsoever on fire sprinkler safety. Then, I went to the Fairfax county

fire and rescue homepage and still found absolutely no information on fire sprinkler safety

whatsoever. It appeared as if there was nobody who could provide me with one solid event

of a fire sprinkler successfully activating and at the least postponing a fire until the arrival of

firemen. After much research and frustration, it has become apparent to me that the state of

Virginia does not stress its fire sprinkler safety as much as it should. Virginia does not stress

fire sprinkler safety at all, as a matter of fact.

        I was finally brought to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website. There, I finally

found a successful fire sprinkler activation that occurred in the city of Tigard, Oregon.

During the planning of a large subdivision, the Home Fire Sprinkler Association discovered

that several streets had grades that exceeded their maximum standards. Consequently, the

Tigard Building Department traded off for home sprinklers. The Home Fire Sprinkler

Association provided a list of homes that needed the fire sprinklers installed, and the

Erickson Heights home developer decided they wanted fire sprinklers installed on every

home in the entire subdivision. Ironically, during the construction, one of the homes ignited

in flames. The fire started in the garage, and fled into the house through the open door

leading inside from the garage. The single fire sprinkler on the inside of the home activated

successfully, controlled, and then extinguished the fire extremely fast. So fast, that the entire

fire was extinguished before the fire and rescue squad had arrived.

        I am extremely glad for the developers of Erickson Heights for their smart decision,

and the fact that they did not mind experiencing an influx in dollars spent to ensure the
safety for their construction workers and the future residents of the homes. It is amazing that

one fire extinguisher can put out an entire fire even before the fire and rescue squad can

arrive. With that said, I am extremely disappointed with the amount of information available

in Virginia on this topic. The only way I was able to find information in the first place was

because I knew the name of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, which was a key part in

my search. Someone researching information on fire sprinklers without knowing about the

American Fire Sprinkler Association might not be so lucky in their research. It is blatantly

obvious that Virginia is either too lazy, or does not care enough to post more information on

their websites, or even have some information held in the fire houses. As I said previously,

the fire house that is not one mile away from my house had absolutely no information on fire

sprinkler safety or activation in the immediate area. Fire and rescue squads all over Virginia

should come together and establish ways to spread the word on fire sprinkler safety. There

are over 3,000 deaths in residential homes along every single year. Fire sprinklers are one of

the more logical ways to help lower that astronomical number. This information is vital to

Virginians. It is important for people to know the affects of fire sprinklers and how they can

possibly save their home and the lives of their family. I find it extremely disturbing that not

one single successful, or even unsuccessful, fire sprinkler activation in the immediate area is

accessible on the internet, or at a fire house. The simple fact that over 3,000 people die in

residential fires each year, and that 90% of all household fires are quickly controlled with a

single sprinkler should compel people all over the globe to look into fire safety, and when

the percentage of Virginians decide to look for that information, it should be accessible to

Essay Number: 2005010402303



SPRINKLERS - Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition


Single Sprinkler Saves New House - Home Fire Sprinkler Coalitionhttp://


Stafford County Fire and Rescue Homepagehttp://co.stafford.va.us/ems/training/orgs.htm

Fairfax county Fire and Rescue Homepage

Essay Number: 2005010402337
Odedara, Tejas
420 N. Monroe Ave.

Covington, VA 24426

Guardian Information:
Pratap Odedara

School Information:
Covington High School
530 S. Lexington Ave.

Covington, VA 24426
Couselor: Janrose Morton
Graduation Date: 05/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402337

     Since its inception in 1874 by Henry S. Parlamee [2], the fire sprinkler system has

proved to be an invaluable asset to saving lives. By providing immediate action, fires in

even the most remote areas could be quelled. The system is especially useful in residential

areas where, were it not for its activation, countless damage might have occurred. One case

in particular where this held to be true was on December 16, 1989 when a fire broke out in a

three story retirement home in Sterling, Virginia. Thanks in large part to the successful

activation of the building’s sprinkler system, the fire was contained and eventually put out.

        The fire was caused by two gas burning tubes in the furnace room located in the

lowest area of the building. The tubes were turned downward so that the heat was projected

downward onto the cement padding. The cement padding was five inches deep and it was

directly over the plywood sub-flooring. As a result of cold weather conditions, the heat

systems were kept continuously on for days. As the heat hit the plywood, the fire started.

After an extended period of time the heat cracked the cement padding that was below it.

From there, the fire spread underneath the pad to a wall in the area of electric panels and then

traveled upwards.

A total of four sprinkler heads wear activated. The fire spread and eventually hit and

activated the first sprinkler. At this point, the alarm system was activated. As a result, the 73

residents were able to evacuate and the company monitoring the system immediately

informed the fire department. The fire then spread left away from the sprinkler until it

reached a second sprinkler head. The second sprinkler head stopped the fire from going

further left but the fire then spread to the rear of the room, which was between the second

floor ceiling and the third floor. It was then that two more sprinklers activated and held the

fire in place until fire fighters opened small holes in an attempt to find the source of the fire,

which allowed the fire to extend into the attic. It followed this path and eventually reached

the roof, where fire fighters were able to effectively put down the fire.

        Fire fighters and rescue workers were at the scene immediately. Thirty-four vehicles
arrived at the scene bringing in a total of 150 fire and rescue personnel. Upon arriving, the

first priority of the fire fighters was to search the building to find any residents that might still

be inside. While searching, fire fighters found light smoke but saw no fire in the residential

areas of the building. Two searches were conducted and fire fighters found no one inside.

As fire fighters were searching the building, other rescue works shut off all power to the

building to prevent any further complications. Fire fighters then began searching for the

source of the fire. They drilled holes in the lower parts of the building in hopes of finding it.

They searched parts of the building and found no active fire. As part of their search effort,

they hooked and pulled down ceiling time, but found no fire. Eventually, a fire was

reported in the attic of the building. Using streams of water shot from 1 ¾ inch lines, the fire

was extinguished within three minutes. Units from seven volunteer companies responded,

and thanks to their effort, the fire was extinguished within three hours.

        Records do not show what the media coverage focused on; however, the report does

focus on the efforts of the fire fighters and the important role the fire sprinklers played.

Only one person was treated for mild smoke inhalation but otherwise there were no deaths

nor were there serious injuries. The total damage to the building totaled almost one million

dollars. However, the damage by the fire itself was estimated to be only one hundred

thousand dollars. The remainder of the cost amounted from physical damage, business loss,

cost of relocating residents, engineering costs and labor charges. Part of the physical damage

came from water damage from the sprinkler system, which was documented in fifteen rooms.

Despite this, the sprinkler system proved invaluable in controlling the fire. The system

allowed fire fighters to evacuate the building as the sprinklers suppressed most of the fire.

         A system of fire sprinklers helped in saving this building and its residents. Through

its successful activation the residents and the fire department were both alerted. The fire was

controlled, which allowed the fire fighters to safely do their jobs. Were it not for fire

sprinklers, this building and countless others would be lost.
Essay Number: 2005010402337

1. "Success Story at Retirement Home Fire." United States Fire Administration. Technical

Report Series. 29 Dec. 2004 <http://www.interfire.org/RES_FILE/PDF/TR-040.PDF>.

2. Bellis, Mary. “Fire Fighting – Inventions;”

< http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfiresprinkler.htm>
Essay Number: 2005010402373
Trant, Chelsea
104 Mummert Circle

Winchester, VA 22601

Guardian Information:
Doris Trant

School Information:
James Wood High School
161 Apple Pie Ridge Road

Winchester, VA 22603
Couselor: Carolyn Beard
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402373

The fire alarm is buzzing while hot flames surround you, then all of sudden water. The fire

sprinkler system probably just saved your life and your property from severe fire damage.

Fire sprinklers are saving lives and property all over the world. They are important in

warehouses, hospitals, nursing homes, and corporate businesses where the sprinklers help

control fires.

The basic sprinkler system receives its water from domestic water lines. Then the system

stores the water until it is needed. Most sprinkler systems have a back flow prevention device

to protect the water from going back into the drinking water and thus contaminating the

water. When the pressure of the water gets low the pump activates and helps pump more

water through quickly to help contain the fire. Therefore sprinklers are designed in a way to

be efficient.

Pactiv Corporation, formerly Tenneco Packaging, a plastic manufacturer near Stephens City,

Virginia, has had a lot of fires occur in their warehouse. For example, a fire that occurred in

their warehouse on November 13, 2002 was started by static discharge due to the packing

material being wrapped before completely cooling. In the case of the fire, two product lines

were coming together at one time, and the products got confused. The fresh foil product,

needed at least 36 hours to age, however it was put on the “automatic pallet wrapper and

wrapped shortly after E1 had changed over to the foil product.” [1] Shortly after it was

wrapped the product burst into flames due to static discharge. The employees around the fire

then tried to “extinguish the fire with portable dry chemical extinguishers.” [1] At 3:27 p.m.

911 was called, and the evacuation alarm was activated. Evacuation of the building was

successful without any harm to employees, and “emergency response personnel were on the

scene within six minutes of the initial call.” [1] In a 40 by 30 area 8 sprinklers were activated

until the firefighters were able to get to the area. The sprinklers were 286 degree Viking
Upright sprinkler, with a 17/32” orifice. Clearbrook, Round Hill, Greenwood, and Millwood

fire stations responded to the fire. [2] They accounted for all the people to make sure that no

one was in danger. Then they took a hose line into the building, just for precaution, and

then made sure that all the fire was out. Finally, they turned off the sprinkler system. After

the fire the activated sprinkler heads were replaced and sprinkler system put back into

working order to help prevent the next fire to occur if should do so. Thus this fire was taken

care, and little damage was done either from the fire itself or the water. The water didn’t

cause any damage because the building is concrete so the water could be taken out the

building easily. The sprinklers prevented the fire from spreading so therefore it did little

damage to the building or products.

The media seems to be encouraging about fire sprinklers but then quick to blame when one

isn’t in place to prevent a fire. The media believes sprinklers are a good thing however they

hang on small details of when something doesn’t correctly work. For example, if a sprinkler

system failed in one part of the building due to manufacturing defects, they would focus on

that instead of the fact the fire really didn’t even occur in that location. Therefore the media

overacts at times but generally is encouraging. The news article “Crew Extinguish Tenneco

Fire” in The Winchester Star was about 150 words and just stated the cause, the fact that the

sprinklers put out most of the fire, and the fire and rescue stations that responded. This

shows that the news media doesn’t put a lot of emphasize on fires that cause little to no

damage, but concentrate more on fires that destroy whole buildings and cause loss of life.

Sprinklers are a lifesaver and every public building should have a system installed. All public

buildings, apartments, restaurants, small businesses, and even residential property should

benefit from a sprinkler system because over time insurance premiums go down when the

added protection of a sprinkler system is in place. Over a period of seven to ten years a

sprinkler system should pay for itself with lower insurance premium rates. “Average loss per
fire was $2,300 in a sprinkled building and $10,300 in unsprinklered buildings,” proves that

sprinklers cut the cost that insurance companies have to pay out due to fire damage. Also

stated by the National Fire Protection Association, hotel damage is 78% less in structures

where sprinklers are installed then where there is no sprinkler protection. [3] With the cost to

install a sprinkler system into a new construction cost only 1% of the total project, which is

about the same amount for new carpet, fire sprinklers should be installed into every building.

If companies are worried about the water damage, they should realize that fire sprinklers

release 6-8 gallons of water per a minute compared to the fire hose which releases 50-125

gallons of water per a minute, so therefore a fire sprinkler would cause less water damage.

Again these facts prove that fire sprinklers are a wonderful invention that should become

apart of every building

Sprinkler systems save life and reduce property damage. They are the key that will reduce

fires all over the world. They should be seen for the good they will do, but not the water

damage they might cause. Therefore sprinkler systems are a very positive thing in today’s

society and a great invention.
Essay Number: 2005010402373

1.      Pactiv Corporation. Investigation Report. Pactiv Corporation. 11/15/02

2.      Martel, Andrew. “Crew Extinguish Tenneco Fire.” The Winchester Star. 14 Nov.


3.      The American Fire Sprinkler Associatation. “Sprinkler Information.”

Essay Number: 2005010402390
Hannon, Sara
724 Bartell Drive

Chesapeake, VA 23322

Guardian Information:
Jack Hannon

School Information:
Great Bridge High School
301 West Hanbury Road

Chesapeake, VA 23322
Couselor: Kathy Whayland
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402390

    The first automatic fire sprinkler system was patented in 1872 by Philip W. Pratt. His

idea, expanded in 1874, led to the first practical fire sprinkler installation in a piano store.

Before the 1940s, private corporate buildings housed the only fire sprinkler systems.

Following that time, they became mandatory in the building code for all public buildings,

such as schools, hotels, and hospitals.

        Fire sprinklers can cause more damage than the fire itself. While that is occasionally

true, in most cases it is a false statement. They work on a system that alerts the sprinklers as to

where the fire actually is. Controlled by a valve, a sprinkler, blocked by a plug with a low

melting point-usually bismuth-does not flood a building. When the heat rises in the room, as

it would in case of a fire, the plug melts, setting off the sprinkler. In a study done by the

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the mid eighties, hotels with a sprinkler

system averaged almost 80% less damage than hotels without a sprinkler system. From a

financial point of view, the NFPA reports that a building equipped with a sprinkler system

can sustain up to 8,000 less dollars damage than a building without one. A sprinkler system

also decreases the chances of dying and property loss by 50-60%. “In 1999, 34% of public

assembly properties where fires occurred in the U.S. were equipped with sprinklers,” says

Kimberly Rohr of the NFPA. “NFPA has no record of a fire killing more than two people in

a completely sprinklered public assembly, educational, institutional or residential building

where the system was working properly.” [3] They are incredibly useful in saving lives and

property, which is where my story comes in.

        My dad used to work for a custom cabinet building company, and one of his

responsibilities as safety manager was to check the fire sprinkler systems on a regular basis to

make sure they were still in working order. As you can imagine, if a fire ever started in a

cabinet store, it would spread quickly. Wood stain and paint are highly flammable materials,

and wood burns rather easily. Due to the highly dangerous materials, the shop was equipped

with a sprinkler system that was quarterly checked. It just so happens that one night there
was an accident, and the shop caught on fire.

        One of the employees had left several paint rags piled on top of each other in a barrel

in the paint room and closed the lid. This was a highly unsafe thing to do. Paint rags should

always dry outdoors before they can be disposed off, and never held onto after having

combustible material on them. These procedures ensure that no fire will occur due to the

highly flammable materials contained in paint and wood stain. During the night, the rags

spontaneously combusted, the lid of the trashcan blew off, and the fire started climbing up

the wall in the paint room. Fortunately, before the fire could spread to the paint, lacquer,

and stain, causing explosions and further damage, the sprinkler system came on. It put out

the fire quickly and with only minor water damage. The fire department, after crediting the

fire to the paint rags, declared the sprinkler system had saved the shop from any major fire

damages, besides one slightly charred wall. Had the sprinklers not gone off, the fire would

incinerate the building, decimating the livelihoods of half a dozen families.

        It came as a surprise the next morning when my dad’s cabinet shop was on the news.

We half expected the media to concentrate on the mistake made by one of the employees,

making the cause of the fire a lack of safety knowledge. Instead, the media told the story of

the paint rags and how the fire had occurred, an accident, and nothing more. They then

praised the fire sprinkler systems for its quick activation, and the employees for their good

care of said sprinkler system. This accident proved that “properly installed and maintained

automatic fire sprinkler systems help save lives. Because fire sprinkler systems react so

quickly, they can dramatically reduce the heat, flames and smoke produced in a fire” [3]. In

the end, they replaced the wall, reset the sprinkler system, and saved the shop so it could

flourish for many years after the accident.
Essay Number: 2005010402390

1. "Fire Sprinkler Systems;" <http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/


2. "Paint Safety;" <http://www.generalpaint.com/paintsafety.html>

3. Rohr, Kimberly D. "Automatic Sprinkler Systems;" <http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?




4. "Sprinkler System;" <www.wikipedia.org>
Essay Number: 2005010402395
Khasawinah, Sarah
4007 David Lane

Alexandria, VA 22311

Guardian Information:
Iatidal Khasawinah
(703) 933-9259

School Information:
JEB Stuart High School
3301 Peace Valley Lane

Falls Church, VA 22044
(703) 824-3900
Couselor: Deborah Guillen
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402395

        September 17, 2004 was an amazing day. On that 17th of September, I turned 17.

On that beautiful Friday afternoon, I came home and found a house full of friends who came

to surprise me on my golden birthday. That was one fun Friday. My friends baked a

chocolate cake, decorated my entire house in pink balloons and banners, and made the best

fudge pudding ever. They also surprised me with wonderful presents: a pink photo album, a

pink shirt from Express, a set of Sweet Pea lotion, a funny calendar with a joke a day, the

entire Dr. Seuss set, and my favorite of them all, a gift certificate to Amazing Nails.

        Yes, that was one amazing experience on one amazing birthday.

        That was Friday.

        Excited to redeem my gift certificate for an amazing manicure, I made a 3:00

appointment with Amazing Nails for Monday afternoon as soon as school was dismissed.

Monday afternoon was almost as great as Friday. My friends drove me to Amazing Nails,

and everything went so splendidly well. They helped me pick out the right shade of pink

and watched as I got my first professional manicure.

        While that manicure only lasted for a week, the experience lasted a lifetime.

        Forever, I will remember the thirty minute ride to Amazing Nails, picking out my

favorite shade of pink, sitting in that chair and watching the woman put paint on my nails,

waiting for the enamel polish to dry, and leaving the store with an effervescent group of

friends on our way to Haagan Daaz to end our celebration with good chocolate ice cream.

        But I will remember more-- much more.

        I will remember waking up the next morning and watching the store I fell in love

with emit smoke from every direction. I will remember looking at my freshly finished pink

nail polish and staring in shock at the television. I will remember listening to her report

while the words echoed through my mind over and over all morning, “it happened at 11:45

P.M., the cause is still unknown… activated sprinklers assisted…” I will remember when the

words became one big blur as tears poured down my eyes, and when my mother watching
from behind turned up the volume and repeated, “Sarah, there were no injuries. The

activated sprinklers assisted the firemen to bring the fire under control very quickly.”

        “No injuries,” I comforted myself all morning.

        I left Amazing Nails at 4:30 P.M. A matter of hours later on Monday, September 20,

2004 at 11:45 P.M., the place caught on fire. Thanks to automatic fire sprinklers, the place

still stands today.

        Automated fire sprinklers are something I am grateful for. I know that fire sprinklers

not only saved Amazing Nails; but, this witty piece of technology has also saved hundreds of

lives. While interning at Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’ office over the summer, I

undertook a project to write the script for the Mason Matters October television show on fire

safety, specifically the new fire code. One highlight of that experience was what I learned

out of researching, writing, and meeting the Fairfax County Fire Chief Michael Neuhard. I

learned the importance of fire safety, the importance of complying with guidelines, whether

these guidelines concern building fire exits in basements, as those in the New Fire Code, or

updating sprinklers, as those in nearly every fire safety guideline. Complying with such

guidelines can be the difference between life and death in a serious situation. Throughout

my research, I frequently visited the Fairfax County Department of Fire and Rescue website

to ensure that I was always on top of the daily news. I was astonished at the numbers of fires

that occur weekly, the causes of the fires, and the saviors of the fires. My Amazing Nails

incident is not unique.

        The fire at Amazing Nails was put out within 15 minutes because of the activated fire

sprinklers. There were no reported injuries. The damage was minimized to $75,000, a fairly

manageable figure. These statistics still stick to my mind.

        Forever, I will remember the importance of fire sprinklers. I do whish that the media

covered the extinguishing of this fire more extensively. As the fire sprinklers were

mentioned, I believe they should have been given more credit as the automatic saviors of

Amazing Nails.
        I still remember picking out that pink nail polish from Amazing Nails. I still

remember how amazing my nails looked all week. I still remember how pink my nails were

on Tuesday morning. I still remember watching Amazing Nails on television on that almost-

awful morning.

        My golden birthday was an amazing one; but, what was even more amazing were

those automatic fire sprinklers that saved an amazing store three days later.
Essay Number: 2005010402395

“About AFSA.” The Fire Sprinkler Network. 2004. American Fire Sprinkler Association. 17

Dec. 2004 <http://www.firesprinkler.org/afsainfo/afsainfo.html>.

“Centreville Commercial Building Fire.” Fire and Rescue Department. 21 Sept. 2004. Fairfax

County Government. 19 Dec. 2004 <http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/ps/fr/news/2004 68.htm>.

“Welcome.” Fire and Rescue Department. 21 Sept. 2004. Fairfax County Government. 19

Dec. 2004 <http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/ps/fr/homepage.htm >.
Essay Number: 2005010402439
Dales, Daniel
46898 Bushwood ct.

Sterling, VA 20164

Guardian Information:
Kelly Dales

School Information:
Dominion High School
21326 Augusta Dr.

Sterling, VA 20164
Couselor: Kevin Terry
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402439

        On Monday, December 27, 2004, the Sterling Volunteer Fire Department was

chasing an active fire alarm at the Dulles Town Center Mall. Engine 618 arrived and

proceeded with a crew of three to investigate the situation. The crew found a faulty smoke

detector on the second floor and reset the system. The crew then left the building and began

to put their equipment on the truck. The officer leaned away and called on his radio,

“Loudoun, Engine 618 available on the scene.” Loudoun replied back, “Engine 618,

standby, we are getting reports of a building fire at the Marriott.” The personnel quickly

threw their equipment on the Engine and left headed towards the hotel.

The south Sterling Engine, Engine 611, arrived on scene when Engine 618 was en route.

Engine 611 reported nothing showing from Side A of the building. Engine 618 confirmed

the transmission and continued. As Engine 618 arrived on scene the driver saw a puff of

smoke from the roof vent in the laundry room. The Engine took position, pulled a hoseline,

and proceeded to the main entrance. The crew took their charged hoseline into the building

and rounded the corner to the laundry room. They found moderate smoke and a small fire

in a dryer.

         What was most prominent in this room was the volume of water that was being

expelled by the one sprinkler head in the middle of the room. This fire was contained to the

dryer because of the successful application of the sprinkler head. Firefighter Dales was on

the nozzle and quickly put out the fire left inside the dryer. Then, the crew proceeded to

ventilate the smoke out of the structure. After the fire was out, the real work began with the

sprinkler head. Firefighter Dales hopped up on a laundry basket and tried to chaulk the

sprinkler head closed to reduce water damage. Due to the amount of pressure and volume of

water it was very difficult to interrupt the flow of water. Once the crew from the Ashburn

Engine 606 arrived, they attempted to shut down the flow of water from the sprinkler control

room. The intricate system gave them some trouble but they were able to stop the flow of

water within 5 minutes. All in all, there was a small amount of fire but the hotel was left with
a lot of water.

        This is an excellent example of a successful sprinkler system. There are several types

of sprinkler systems but the one in this hotel is the most common.

The fire proceeded out the opening and raised the temperature of the air to close to 200º F.

The sprinkler had a rating of approximately 180º to 200º F. This means when the

temperature at the ceiling near the location of the sprinkler head reaches the rating of the

sprinkler the sprinkler will engage.

There is a bulb inside the sprinkler head called a frangible bulb. This bulb is filled with fluid

that had its own individual temperature rating. As the heat rises at the ceiling the fluid inside

the bulb expands and shatters the bulb at the proper temperature rating (IFSTA, Pg 575).

        The hotel above had a wet-pipe sprinkler system. This means that the system

contains pressured water at all times in its pipes. This allows for immediate discharge when

the bulb in the sprinkler head explodes at high temperatures (IFSTA, Pg 580).

        In the above incident, the sprinkler head was the pendant type. This type of sprinkler

head is the most common. This sprinkler head is shaped so that the flow of water sprays

straight down and is broken up by a deflector and dispersed evenly throughout the area

(IFSTA, Pg 575).

        The system, as well as most systems, was equipped with a water flow alarm valve. As

the flow of water passes through this valve the fire alarm system is set off in the building

(IFSTA, Pf. 578). This water flow alarm was accompanied by the 911 call from an

employee which helped make the fire department’s response that much faster.

        This sprinkler system worked exactly like it was intended. The fire originated inside

the dryer and pushed out to raise the temperature of the room. As the temperature rose, the

chemical inside the frangible bulb expanded. As the bulb reached its temperature rating it

shattered the bulb releasing hundreds of gallons of water on top of the fire. This one

sprinkler head did an excellent job containing the fire to the dryer until the engine crew was

able to enter and spray some water inside the dryer. After engine crew arrived they had the
fire extinguished within 20 seconds. This one sprinkler head had been “fighting” the fire the

whole time the engine crews were responding. This made for an easy job for the suppression


           This hotel sustained very little fire damage but a good deal of water damage. The

fire and water damage total was approximately $2000, most of which was caused by the

water. Most of the attention of the firefighters, media, and hotel staff was on the water

damage. Despite the amount of water damage, this sprinkler system was able to stop even

more damage to the building and the possibility of lost lives. This is just one out of

thousands of examples of how successful sprinkler systems save lives and property. The

invention of the sprinkler system is one of the greatest advancements in Fire Suppression

Essay Number: 2005010402439

Carlo FF/EMT, Jason. Personal interview. 2 January 2005.

International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA).

Adams, Barbara, and Richard Hall, comps. Essentials of Fire Fighting.

4th ed. Stillwater, OK: Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University,

Essay Number: 2005010402451
Hoag, Justin
709 Denham Arch

Chesapeake, VA 23322

Guardian Information:
Michael Hoag

School Information:
Hickory High School
1996 Hawk Blvd

Chesapeake, VA 23322
Couselor: Carol Houchin
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010402451

Since ancient times, one of the most detrimental forces that could affect a community has

been a catastrophic fire. As civilization has advanced, the methods of preventing and

extinguishing fires have evolved from early “bucket-lines”, to the first fire departments, to

today’s modern fire protection equipment and technology. One of the most effective

technologies, and certainly that with the fastest response to the fire is the modern fire

sprinkler system. By using a pump to force water through a network of pipes and out of the

sprinkler heads, which are sensitive to the heat from a fire, the system can quickly douse a

fire and prevent its spread. In successful fire sprinkler activations, property damage is

limited and numerous lives can potentially be saved.

One such activation occurred on September 28, 2004, at the Mitsubishi Chemical plant in

Chesapeake, Virginia. This facility manufactures a large number of imaging products,

including those used in paper copiers and laser printers. The high-quality toner used in these

printers and copiers became the main source of fuel for this fire. [2] On this occasion, as well

as many others that occur daily across the country, fire sprinklers played a key role in

controlling the fire. A screw feeder in a toner feeder machine had seized up creating enough

heat from friction to ignite the toner powder that was being moved through the machine. A

single fire sprinkler head was activated and, as it was part of a wet system, was able to

function almost immediately. The initial fire was quickly extinguished and caused very little

damage to the building in which it originated. However, heat from the fire traveled through

the toner machine, through a vacuum system, and into ventilation ducts for dust and vapors

where the fire ignited once more. [3]

In an interview with Chesapeake firefighter, Mike Connelly, who was in charge of the first

arriving fire apparatus, I was able to surmise what the cause of the fire was, as well as what

actions firefighters took to suppress the fire. The incident was dispatched as a fire alarm, and

when engine twenty-four arrived on scene, the blaze had traveled to the center of a

warehouse, approximately two hundred feet from the machine in which it started. These
firefighters, who were the first to arrive, quickly moved into the structure to douse the fire.

The next engine to arrive, number four, was directed to a sprinkler connection and was

instructed to stand by. If the need arose, this engine could connect to the sprinkler system

and provide extra water pressure to help extinguish the fire, though the two thousand gallon

per minute pump supplying the sprinkler system afforded adequate pressure to extinguish the

initial fire. Ladder two then accessed the roof and flooded the ventilation hopper in which

the fire was presently burning. Firefighters then investigated the filters in the ventilation

hopper to ensure that no smoldering material would reignite. Engine fourteen also

responded to the fire alarm, as did the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) team, for the facility in

which the fire started contained a plethora of chemicals and other combustible materials.

Fortunately, only two minor injuries were sustained in this incident: a small burn to the hand

of an employee who later refused treatment and breathing difficulty experienced by another

employee due to smoke inhalation. [4]

The media did not become very involved in this event, as the Mitsubishi Chemical plant

wished to keep the fire at a low profile. Captain Steve Johnson, Public Information Officer

for the Chesapeake Fire Department, best summarized the media’s response to the fire: “The

media updates and involvement were intense at first. Due to security concerns regarding

their site and patented operations, the management of Mitsubishi would not let the media on

the grounds.” [1] Captain Johnson did say that telephone interviews took place between him

and the company spokesperson, which later released this positive message: “The building is

equipped with sprinklers, and they did activate to help hold the fires in check. The processes

in the building and the materials used are hazardous when in an uncontrolled environment.

The sprinklers could not extinguish all of the fire as some of it was contained in closed

piping and other system partitions. The sprinklers did the job they were designed to do.” [1]

Had the sprinklers not been installed, or had they been in poor repair, this small fire could

have rapidly turned into a furious, uncontrolled inferno had it come in contact with any of

the hazardous materials contained in the Mitsubishi facility. If a fire of this magnitude had
occurred, the property losses, instead of the estimate of $11,500.00, would have been in the

millions of dollars. [3] Even more detrimental than the potential monetary loss would be the

loss of life that is associated with such fires. Many employees as well as firefighters could

have perished in the fire and more still could have been injured.
Essay Number: 2005010402451

1.    Johnson, Steve. “Sprinkler Info.” E-mail to Mike Hoag. 22 Dec. 2004.

2.    Overview. 1 Jan. 2005. <http://company.monster.com/mitca/>.

3.    Chesapeake Fire Department. 28 Sept. 2004. Official fire report.

4.    Interview with firefighter Mike Connelly.
Essay Number: 2005010502560
Rovner, Polina
1642 Fairfield Green Road

Richmond, VA 23238

Guardian Information:
Mila Rovner

School Information:
Mills E. Godwin High School
2101 Pump Road

Richmond, VA 23233
Couselor: Nancy Lott
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010502560

Local News                                                                    Monday,

October 4, 2004

                    The Enemy of the Town: Fire Strikes Hotel Suite

   Someone once asked me to describe myself in three adjectives. I am fierce. I am

merciless: “I spare no one and I find my victims among the rich and the poor alike, the

young and the old, the strong and the weak.” [7] I am a thief of life and property. Hello

everyone, my name is Fire, and I have struck again.

   Yesterday at 4:30PM, a fire started on the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn hotel, located on

Gaskins Road. Luckily, no one was inside the room when the conflagration started, although

a number of people occupied rooms next door.

   When man first roamed the Earth, fire was a seen as a rare and awesome beauty from the

fire god Prometheus. However, fire is a chemical reaction between oxygen and fuel that can

quickly become a destructive force. [5] The cause of yesterday’s inferno was due to a stove

fire, a quite common incident. A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was cooking

pork chops for dinner. She went next door to borrow some ingredients, but got caught up in

the conversation and lost rack of time. About fifteen minutes later, she remembered about the

pork chops on the stove and rushed over to her suite only to find out she had locked herself


   A passerby driving on the local road noticed smoke rising out of the windows of the fifth

floor and immediately called for help. Firefighters from Station Fourteen arrived on the

scene shortly thereafter. Finding the Fire Alarm panel on the lobby floor, they saw that the

source of the problem was on the “fifth floor, kitchen, room 506.” While the back-up

emergency crew headed to the seventh and third floors, Lieutenant Fred Parker and three

firefighters approached the fifth floor. In addition, one fireman stayed behind in the lobby to
report of any more trouble and report any injuries. A third group went to the tenth floor, the

highest floor, to rescue any individuals that might have inhaled too much of the inescapable

smoke. [6]

   When asked to comment about the fire, Parker asserted, “Fortunately, by the time we

arrived, the fire sprinklers had already gone off. It's like having another set offiremen. They

save lives FOR REAL.” [6]

   Amazingly it took only ONE fire sprinkler to stop the inferno. [6] Firefighters reported

that the fire could have spread throughout the suite and eventually swept through the floor or

even burnt the rest of the hotel, had a fire sprinkler system not been present. Without these

little miracles, we might have had to say goodbye to the hotel.

  The fire sprinkler is an integrated system of pipes and sprinkler heads connected to the

water supply. [7] Philip W. Pratt patented the first fire sprinkler in 1872. Afterwards, Henry

S. Parmalee improved upon the design and in 1874, installed a fire sprinkler in his piano

factory [2]. Ever since, this safety equipment, which costs at the same inexpensive price as

carpeting, has been in constant use. [4] They are known for their ability to go to work

immediately and thus prevent fast-developing fires of intense heat and smoke from trapping

occupants. [7]

   What makes this gadget go off? The water in the sprinkler system is always under pressure

(about 200 pounds per square inch) but is held back by a little plug. With enough heat,

usually 68C, reaching the head of the plug, one of two things occurs depending on the

mechanisms of each fire sprinkler system. [7] The solder that holds the sprinkler head can

melt, or as in the Holiday Inn case, the fluid in a glass vial in the head expands enough to

break the glass. [3] Either way, the plug is released, and the deluge comes (Call Noah!).

   When they arrived to room 506, the fire was gone, so Parker and the others only had to

deal with the water damage. They squeegeed the water and hammered “chocks” into the fire

sprinkler heads. This stopped the water from coming without sacrificing the effectiveness of

the entire system. [6] Later, an emergency respondent can come and properly repair the
sprinkler system. [3] Call the water damage team to place proper refinishing and trim and,

viola, suite 506 is ready to be occupied again. Thus, thanks to the fire sprinkler, the cost of

damage was roughly five grand, whereas without it, the sum could have increased largely.


      But would you rather have “a puddle of water or a pile of ashes?” [7] Although the fire

sprinkler had caused water damage to property, we must look at the situation in a positive

way. After all, the fire was put out. Technically, fire sprinklers only release 8 to 24 gallons of

water per minute, whereas a firefighters’ hose uses between 50 to 125 gallons per minute,

thus causing more damage. [1] In addition, fire sprinklers use “A One-At-A-Time

Activation”, where the heat in each room sets the sprinkler off independently from one

another. [7] Since the accident happened in the kitchen, the only fire sprinkler that activated

was in the kitchen, not the ones in the suite, on the floor, or in the hotel.

      Clearly, fire sprinkler systems are beneficial. They fight the spread of fires in their early

stages, before conflagrations can cause severe injury or death to people and significant

damage to property. [1]

      "Miss Pork Chops” is doing just fine, and the hotel is recovering from its minimal

damage. Thanks to the heroines of the fire sprinkler, all Fire can say this time is, “Aw


I would like to devote a poem to the *Fire Sprinkler*.

The heat makes you melt

And then comes the H2O

To reduce the flames that I felt

And make the fire not grow.

You are my hero,
Saving property and lives.

You are a ten, not a zero.

Because of you the Holiday Inn survives.
Essay Number: 2005010502560

Works Cited

1. “Automatic Fire Sprinklers.” Montgomery County <http://



2. Bellis, Mary. “Fire Fighting Inventions.” <http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/


3. “Fire Sprinklers: FAQ.” Blink UCSD<http://blink.ucsd.edu/Blink/External/Topics/Policy/


4. “Fire Sprinklers ‘The Facts.’” <http://www.armstrongpriestley.co.uk/spkfacts.html>.

5. Harris, Tom. “How Fire Works.” <http://science.howstuffworks.com/fire.htm>.

6. Interview with Lieutenant Fred Parker of Station 14 on Technology Boulevard, Henrico

    County, Virginia

7. “Sprinklers for your Home?” Fire Busters.<http://www.firebusters.com/sprforhome/

Essay Number: 2005010502604
Amonson, Christian
PO Box 389

Philomont, VA 20131

Guardian Information:
Denise Amonson

School Information:
Loudoun Valley High School
340 North Maple Ave.

Purcellville, VA 20132
Couselor: Mr. Keegan Barr
Graduation Date: 06/2005
Essay Number: 2005010502604


Man rejoiced at the discovery of fire! He was able to harness the hot flames for his own

desires -- to cook food, to provide warmth, and to illuminate the darkness… fire is surely an

invaluable tool!

But like much of what man has discovered or invented, this profitable resource can also be

used for destruction. It has been used to burn one’s foes, to flatten villages, and to brand

slaves. Even when not used maliciously, fire is still destructive by its very nature, causing

molecule upon molecule, atom upon atom to disassociate (to denature) from one another.

The careless mishandling (and sometimes even the careful handling) of fire has often resulted

in severe injuries or death. As demonstrated by archaeological experts, Sodom and

Gomorrah were destroyed by enormous fires. Rome was plagued by urban fires which tore

through its densely populated streets. London faced a similar problem and tried to prevent

dangerous chimney fires by employing chimney-sweeps to maintain safe burning conditions.

And the evening news continually reminds us of the power of fire: ‘Firework Mishap Kills

Five’, ‘Apartment Fire Burns Two Blocks’, or ‘Family Faces Christmas Tree Fire, Loses

Everything’. On Christmas Eve, a couple from Huron, VA escaped from a fire in the mobile

home with just the clothes on the backs. [2]

Aware of the dangers presented by fire, legislators have passed laws requiring many

buildings to be equipped with fire sprinklers. Schools, government buildings, office

buildings, dormitories, churches – places where large amounts of people congregate and

work – are all required to have fire sprinklers.

What are fire sprinklers? Fire sprinklers are essentially spigots of water that are placed on the
ceilings or walls of a building. They are connected to a high pressure water pump which is

often found in the basement of the structure. The sprinklers’ purpose is to extinguish fires

quickly and effectively.

Sprinklers are advantageous because they can put out fires in places where it would be

difficult and time consuming for a traditional fire company to reach. For instance, a small

fire on the fourth story of an office building might take fifteen minutes for firemen to reach.

During that time, the fire could spread through the office and to other floors. The firemen

would have to risk their lives ascending the building and entering the inferno. But with a

sprinkler system installed in the building, the system would have been initiated automatically

after the fire was detected, and the flames could be extinguished in under a minute. This

invention not only saves lives, it also saves buildings from collapsing or being gutting by an

initially small fire. Insurance companies recognize this, and often require their clients to

install fire sprinklers or offer huge deductions for those that install sprinkler systems


Most buildings built before laws required fire sprinklers still do not have sprinklers in place.

As a result, many people have been injured in these older buildings. One such incident

occurred on April 28, 1987 in the Frazer Dormitory of Longwood College. An overloaded

extension cord caused a fire that injured fifteen students. In addition to the lack of fire

sprinklers, many of the smoke detectors were non-functional, and activation of the fire alarm

was delayed about 10-minutes due to a broken breaker. Students also called the Campus

Police Office instead of calling 911, which further delayed containment. Even after hearing

the fire alarm, many students failed to exit the building because they thought it was “just

another fire drill”. The combination of student irresponsibility and lack of functioning safety

equipment led to this tragic incident. [1]
In buildings that have sprinkler systems installed, fires are often less tragic. One such fire

occurred on December 16, 1989 at a retirement home in Sterling, Virginia. A broken

furnace over time caused a crack in the surrounding cement and started a fire in the sub-

flooring. An automatic detection system activated the fire sprinklers in the hard to reach

location, while simultaneous initiating the fire alarm and notifying the building police. The

fire was not immediately extinguished by the sprinklers, because it was being fed by the

furnace, but quick response by fire-fighters had the blaze under control in less than three

hours, with minimal peripheral damage. [3]

Because the building exceeded fire code requirements, it is a prime example of how proper

planning and functional safety equipment, including fire sprinklers, can save lives. We

should all learn from this incident and protect ourselves and others by being conscientious of

fire safety.
Essay Number: 2005010502604

1. Carpenter, Daniel. United States Fire Administration Technical Report Series. “College

Dormitory Fires in Dover, Delaware and Farmville, Virginia”. <http://www.usfa.fema.gov/


2. Kasa, Roger. Plainsman Online. “Account Set Up for Family.” <http://


3. Stambaugh, Hollis. United States Fire Administration Technical Report Series. “Success

Story at Retirement Home Fire Sterling, Virginia”. <http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/


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