Riverdale Home Rises From the Ashes of Fatal Fire, Becomes Village’s First Sprinklered Home

riverdale-demo-homeOn May 5, 2014, a single-family home in Riverdale, Illinois, suffered an unfortunate fire, which resulted in the fatality of 12-year resident, Dedra Matthews. The fire was less than one block from the firehouse.

But the story continues with promise for the future. In the same year, Riverdale officials adopted a national model building code that follows NFPA 13D guidelines for fire sprinklers in all new single-family homes. Fire Chief Robert Scharnhorst proposed the code upgrade and received strong support from Mayor Lawrence Jackson through his recommendation to the Village Board. The passage was unanimous.

Today, the house where the fatal fire occurred is being rebuilt with the newly enacted code requirements for fire sprinkler protection. In doing so, Dedra’s son, Frederick Matthews, and his daughters, will live in the first home in Riverdale to be fire sprinkler protected. Village officials and the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) and the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition (IFSC) determined the house would be an educational project, not only to help heal the wounds the surviving family members suffered following the fire, but also to educate the various village departments and neighboring communities about the new home fire sprinkler requirements.

Architectural plans for the renovation were obtained from the general contractor. United States Alliance Fire Protection (USAFP) then sent a surveyor out to test the area water supply by flow testing a hydrant and conducting some internal measurements at the home. USAFP developed a layout drawing, including hydraulic calculations, and determined a small tank and fire pump would be needed due to a narrow, corroded underground tap.

To simplify the system, Riverdale officials agreed to have public works replace the underground tap with a larger one. A local plumber put in a new line and cleaned and flushed it so USAFP could install the system prior to the drywall installation.

The completion of the fire sprinkler system installation led to NIFSAB and IFSC conducting an educational open house and walkthrough in mid-December. NIFSAB brought the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association’s fire sprinkler demonstration trailer and a presentation was held to recognize the homeowners and those involved with the project. A “Living with Sprinklers” Kit from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition was presented to the family for their personal knowledge of how the fire sprinklers work.

When the home is fully completed, a follow up will be done to ensure the system is ready. The homeowners also will be encouraged to notify their insurance company that they now are eligible for an insurance discount.

The installation of the fire sprinkler system was a grand effort that began with the adoption of fire sprinkler requirements by the Village Board through the encouragement and support of Chief Scharnhorst, Executive Assistant Marilyn Russell, and Mayor Jackson. Thanks to the village’s public works department for replacing the underground tap, thus avoiding a tank and pump installation; USAFP’s Bill Winzentsen and Jordan Baron for water supply testing, system design and hydraulic plans; Rich Piccolo of B&F Construction for the donation of plan review and inspection fees; and Don Smith of Chicago Backflow who contributed the backflow valve and system CCCDI inspection certificate.

Also, thanks to the National Fire Protection Association for providing the IFSC with a 2015 Bringing Safety Home grant to help coordinate and promote the open house event.

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