Illinois fire departments aim to save lives, reduce house fire damage with sprinkler system ordinance

ALSIP, Il. (WLS) -- If a fire broke out in your home, it could be destroyed in minutes.

"In as little as two minutes it become deadly and it's because of the material that's in our home," said Peg Paul, the communications manager for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "The polyurethanes, the synthetics, they burn so quickly and really it's that smoke, it's toxic. That's what really kills people in a house fire."

The coalition works to educate public about the dangers of house fires and how the damages could be lowered with the help of an in-home sprinkler system.

"They lose everything, they lose all their belongings. They could lose their pets or their family members. Once you have a fire in your house without a sprinkler system, you're out of that house for almost a year sometimes," Alsip Fire Department Chief Thomas Styczynski said.

Here's how the device works. If your home reaches temperatures higher than about 150 degrees, a red bar in the sprinkler will break, turning on the water.

"The sprinkler system, once it activates is a life-saving device," Styczynski said. "It's designed to stop a fire in the beginning phase or totally extinguish it depending on the amount of product that's burning."

But most single-family homes aren't outfitted with sprinkler systems. Only two states have laws in place that require sprinkler systems in homes, California and Maryland.

That means individual towns or districts have to create their own legislation. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition credits Illinois with having the leading number of towns with legislation: 107. South suburban Alsip is one of them.

"It can save a lot of lives. You look at how many people lose their lives every year during fires throughout the United States and we'd be able to save a fraction of those, or almost all of them, if everybody and something in place for it," Styczynski said.

It's important to note these ordinances only apply to newly-built homes. But if you have an older home and want to get sprinklers installed, you can.

Remember, smoke detectors are also a proven and affordable way to save lives from a fire, whether you have a sprinkler system or not.
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