Fire Sprinkler Prevents Significant Damage from Automobile Fire at Chicago High-Rise

Early in the morning on May 8, the Chicago Fire Department reported that a fire sprinkler system in the Esplanade Apartments high-rise at 900 N. Lake Shore Drive activated to contain an automobile fire in a basement parking garage.

Smoke was able to reach its way into the high-rise building above due to a ventilation shaft, however, Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, says the conditions could have been much worse had fire sprinklers not been present to put water on the fire early and keep it from spreading.

“Too often we hear about the unsprinklered fires that cause major damage and injuries or deaths, but it is even more important to highlight when larger fires are prevented thanks to the quick response of fire sprinklers,” states Lia. “This fire is an example of why fire sprinklers are in the national model codes. They are vital to life and property protection in high-rises and all other occupancies as well.”

Lia also notes that the sprinkler activation is a reminder for owners of older residential high-rise buildings to stay on track with their fire sprinkler retrofits in order to comply with Chicago’s Life Safety and High Rise Ordinance. The ordinance states that all residential high-rise buildings built before fire sprinklers were required in 1975 must complete a Life Safety Evaluation and repair any deficiencies by the extended deadline of January 1, 2015. To bypass more invasive and costly measures, fire sprinklers can be installed to comply with the ordinance. Most buildings already have the infrastructure in place, which includes a standpipe and fire pump.

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