Fire sprinklers do their job in Stateline apartment |

Fire sprinklers do their job in Stateline apartment

Staff reports

A Stateline resident who reportedly disabled his home’s smoke detectors because they were making noise is likely now grateful that the apartment was equipped with fire sprinklers.

Tahoe Douglas fire officials are crediting the sprinklers with averting a tragedy when a stovetop fire broke out in the Market Street apartment at about 12:10 a.m. Saturday.

The two occupants of the apartment had gone to bed, apparently not realizing one of the stove’s burners still was on. The food on the stove caught fire, and the flames spread to the cabinets, said Mark Novak, fire-prevention battalion chief with the Tahoe Douglas Fire District.

The fire sprinklers doused the blaze, and the occupants were awakened by the sprinkler system’s water-flow alarm, which sounds when a sprinkler discharges.

When firefighters arrived, they found the apartment’s two occupants waiting safely outside, along with three neighbors who evacuated from an upstairs unit of the fourplex when they heard the alarm, Novak said.

The fire was extinguished by a single sprinkler head. Damage was estimated at $5,000.

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Smoke detectors in the unit where the fire occurred previously had been disabled by the occupants because they were making noise, Novak said, possibly because the batteries were low.

“This incident clearly demonstrates the benefit of fire sprinklers,” Novak said. “While smoke detectors are important, they are easily tampered with and do nothing to suppress the fire.

“It is very likely that without the fire sprinkler system, this fire would have resulted in serious injury, if not fatalities, and the building would have sustained extensive damage.”

Novak pointed to a recent report by the National Fire Protection Association that found the average cost of installing a residential sprinkler system to be $1.61 per square foot.

The fire district strongly discourages residents from disabling their smoke detectors and to test them every month. Batteries should be replaced twice a year. An easy way to remember this is to replace smoke-detector batteries when setting clocks forward or back in the spring and fall.