The Novato Fire District is no stranger to home fire sprinkler saves. Novato is in Marin County, California, which has 13 different fire agencies. For decades, the fire prevention officers in those fire agencies have worked together to push home fire sprinkler installations by working in partnership with stakeholders, and successfully adopting fire codes with local amendments that require residential fire sprinklers in new and substantially remodeled homes. And since 2011, California has had a statewide sprinkler requirement for new one- and two-family homes and townhouses.
As a result, today there are thousands of sprinklered homes in the county and that number is growing, says Fire Marshal and Battalion Chief Bill Tyler with Novato Fire District. Earlier this year, Novato experienced two fire sprinkler saves in a single three-month period. The double save was notable even for a busy fire district used to sprinkler saves.
It started on an early morning in April when the attached garage of a home under renovation caught fire from contaminated rags left in a worker’s bucket. When the general contractor arrived for work he found that one sprinkler had already extinguished the spontaneous combustion fire. (In California, fire sprinklers are required in residential garages.) “He was so relieved, he actually gave the sprinkler contractor a big bear hug when he came to replace the head, thanking him and acknowledging that the sprinklers saved the house,” Tyler adds.
A second fire began at night, just two months later on a desk in the second-floor of a home. That fire was also extinguished by a single sprinkler. Neither home was occupied and there was no structural damage from the fires. “If it had not been for the functioning automatic residential fire sprinklers the homes would have been a complete loss,” Chief Tyler said. Together the sprinklers saved more than $2 million in damages.