Rebuilt North Dakota Rural Fire Station Now Protected with Fire Sprinklers
As we all know, home fires don’t pick and choose where they strike. They can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime—even firefighters. Fire stations are a home away from home for firefighters, often with cooking and sleeping quarters. Even though firefighters are the station “residents,” when a fire station doesn’t have fire sprinklers installed and a fire strikes, the damage can be significant, especially when the firefighters are out on a call. That’s precisely what happened to the Glenburn Fire Department in north central North Dakota on March 6, 2021, when their own fire station burned down. The Glenburn Rural Fire Protection District covers a large jurisdiction, including two small cities and numerous farms and ranches. The station was unstaffed and by the time firefighters got the call it was too late―most everything had been destroyed. An investigation determined the fire was caused by a furnace failure. Fortunately, no lives were lost, and no one was injured in that fire. BUILT BACK BETTER Today, the station has been rebuilt and is protected with installed fire sprinklers. Glenburn Fire Chief Mike Overton said it has been a long two years, but now the fire department is up and functioning. He and department personnel are using their experience to raise awareness about fire dangers and the benefits of fire sprinklers. In fact, the Glenburn Fire Department received a $500 stipend from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), which it will use to hold an educational open house in its new, sprinklered station during Home Fire Sprinkler Week 2023 (May 14–20). In addition to sharing information on home sprinklers, the open house will feature HFSC’s 3D virtual reality and other videos, information on smoke alarms, and more. One of the key messages to be reinforced is that today’s home fires burn faster and hotter than in the 60s and 70s. Back then, residents had up to 17 minutes to escape a home fire. Now, with synthetic furnishings, lightweight building materials, and open designs, that window has closed to just 2 minutes or less. Fortunately, sprinklers activate quickly, controlling and often extinguishing the fire before the fire department arrives. Chief Overton says members of the community will learn that having both smoke alarms and fire sprinklers cuts the risk of death in a home fire by 82 percent compared to having neither. He also plans to underscore that sprinklers are green, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 98 percent, fire damage by up to 97 percent, and water usage by as much as 91 percent. When it comes to educating our communities about the dangers of home fires, seeing really is believing. Chief Overton understands this, and the Glenburn open house will go a long way toward delivering the vital messages through meaningful and memorable presentations to the community. WHAT CAN YOUR COMMUNITY DO? Your community needs these lifesaving messages, too. A live demonstration or a side-by-side virtual reality video will reveal how quickly a home fire spreads without sprinklers, versus how quickly it’s controlled with installed sprinklers. And as Chief Overton is doing with his station, consider sharing personal stories you may have about fire sprinklers, not just for homeowners, but for firefighters as well. You can tap into NFPA’s free resources, including safety tip sheets, you can download and share. And for home fire sprinkler content, use HFSC’s free turnkey tools that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. You can also create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers. Upload videos and other content. Post cards to your social media accounts. Or simply link to HomeFireSprinkler.org (HFSC’s website is free of advertising and all content is free to you). No matter how you plan your outreach activities, NFPA and HFSC are here to support your efforts. We look forward to hearing about your successes.