Editorial: Failed fire is non-news worth noting

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:10 PM

It’s not exactly what we might normally define as news.

After all, you never see headlines like this:

ANOTHER PLANE LANDS SAFELY AT RDU.

ALL CARS MAKE IT HOME VIA DURHAM FREEWAY WITHOUT A SCRATCH.

NO WOODCROFT HOUSES BURGLED LAST NIGHT.

On Sunday, The Herald-Sun received a news release titled “Structure Fire Chapel Hill NC.” Immediately, before we even open the email, we’re hoping no one got hurt, but wondering if someone got photographs to go with the inevitable story about another family displaced by tragic circumstances.

One click later, and we’re surprised: Mostly, it’s a report about a structure fire that stopped before it could spread.

The headline would’ve been: SPRINKLERS STOP BLAZE.

It’s not dramatic as human interest stories go, but it’s still worth noting.

On Saturday, about 12:17 p.m., Chapel Hill firefighters responded to a fire alarm on Vintage Drive in a cluster of five attached town homes. Inside the garage of one unit, they found that automatic fire sprinklers had doused a fire that could have – under less favorable circumstances – spread to the rest of the town home and even into neighboring units.

The sprinkler in the garage kicked in when the temperature in the sprinkler heads reached about 155 degrees. Authorities estimate less than $5,000 damage to the garage door and some personal belongings. No one was home, so no one got hurt. The rest of the house got infiltrated by smoke, but sustained no other damage.

The lack of a story ends up being the story, in this case, proving good news is worth sharing.

“The presence of an automatic fire sprinkler system in this home prevented a fire in an unattended home from growing larger and causing severe damage to the owner’s home, as well as the neighbors’ homes within the building,” wrote Capt. Darryl Rimmer, assistant fire marshal for the Town of Chapel Hill. “Automatic fire sprinklers are proven to save lives, prevent injuries, protect property and valuables. This is yet another example of how the presence of an automatic fire sprinkler system prevented substantial damage to a dwelling by fire.”

The American Fire Sprinkler Association estimates that installation of fire sprinklers in new homes costs about 1 percent of the total construction cost, roughly equal to what it costs to add carpet.

So, while a smoke detector can provide excellent warning about a fire in your home, it can’t extinguish a blaze before it’s beyond hope of control.

Get both, if you can. And keep the batteries fresh in those detectors.