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Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District Burning Down (Half of) the House

Fire rips through the unsprinklered side of the structure during a demonstration conducted by the Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District.

When most Illinois fire departments choose to do a fire sprinkler demonstration to educate public officials and the community about the devastating effects of fire and the benefits of fire sprinklers, they choose the ever-popular side-by-side demonstration. The demonstration features two eight-by-eight-foot cubes that have been constructed and furnished to look like identical rooms in a home — one is protected with fire sprinklers and the other is not.

The Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District, however, wanted to make an even bigger impression with its audience. The fire district “upped the ante” by conducting a larger scale side-by-side demonstration with a U-shaped structure that had identical 20-by-20-foot rooms on each side of a small courtyard between them.

The larger scale side-by-side demonstration utilized a U-shaped structure that had identical 20-by-20-foot rooms on each side of a small courtyard between them.

The house-like structure, which had been donated by the Hoover Forest Preserve just west of Yorkville, was furnished with identical furniture in the exact same spots in each room. Sterling Fire Protection donated labor and materials for the fire sprinkler system and had contractors in attendance during the event to answer installation questions.

In addition to fire district personnel, over 50 individuals from surrounding communities attended the demonstration, which included mostly public officials: Valerie Burd, mayor of Yorkville; Rose Spears, alderwoman for Yorkville; members of the Yorkville Building and Police departments; members of the Kendall County Building & Zoning department and Sheriff’s Office; and Oswego Fire Marshal Alec Keenum.

The local community leaders and decision-makers were invited to the event to witness the effectiveness of fire sprinklers firsthand. They were able to view the room that was protected with fire sprinklers being completely extinguished within 29 seconds of fire ignition versus the uncontrolled fire that grew out of control during a simulated fire department response time. For Fire Chief Michael Hitzemann and Fire Marshal Jeremy Canavan the goal of the event was to influence new fire sprinkler legislation among the local officials’ communities.

Fire Chief Michael Hitzemann narrates the demonstration.

“With the recent fire sprinkler demonstration and certain code upgrades we are looking to adopt within our fire district, we are leading by example and hoping to influence Yorkville to move forward with a residential fire sprinkler ordinance, therefore, also convincing other surrounding communities to follow the lead,” says Canavan.

The 2009 editions of the International Code Council (ICC) codes are the upgrades that Canavan mentions are of interest to the fire district. Currently, the fire district has a residential fire sprinkler ordinance for townhomes and multifamily occupancies but it only works with the 2000 editions of ICC codes, preventing any further fire sprinkler requirements. The adoption of the 2009 editions would require fire sprinklers in commercial structures over 5,000 square feet as well as all new residential construction.

“The Bristol-Kendall Fire Protection District would like to be the leader in Kendall County for influencing the installation of fire sprinklers, specifically in residential applications,” adds Canavan. “In fact, just recently Fire Chief Michael Hitzemann voluntarily built his new ranch-style house with a complete 13D fire sprinkler system, signaling his and the fire district’s stance behind residential fire sprinklers.”

*All photos courtesy of Paul Burd

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