In room two of the fire demonstra￾tion, the fire has gotten out of control. Firefighters step in to end the demonstration.
Juan Baeza | El Defensor Chieftain

A small trailer contains two similar rooms that consist of things that you would find in a home: couch, coffee table, laptop. Smoke emerges from the trash can and before you know it, a fire has started and the fire alarm kicks off.

As the fire reaches the curtains in room number one, the sprinkler system comes on aggressively raining down on the flames. The damage is minimal as many things in room number one remain the same. Part two of the demonstration is the same process, except this time there is no sprinkler system. The fire is slow at first but as the temperature rises, things that aren’t on fire begin to melt. Before you know it the fire rages, destroying everything in the room.

On Monday July 25, there was a live fire demonstration, showing side by side the difference between a room with a sprinkler system and one without. The New Mexico Fire Marshalls Association and the Northern New Mexico Association of Public Safety held their annual conference at the New Mexico State Firefighter’s Academy in Socorro, New Mexico. The National Fire Sprinkler Association, who were in attendance at the conference, are advocating for sprinkler systems at all levels.

Jon Pairett, fire marshal for the Gallup fire department, explains that they are advocating for this sprinkler system due to New Mexico adopting the current edition of the international residential code. In this code there are no requirements for residential sprinkler systems. “In our state we have many rural communities. In these rural communities’ response times may be longer due to the distance but a sprinkler system can save people from serious injuries or even death,” Pairett said.

During the demonstration the fire with the sprinklers was extinguished within 38 seconds. There was water damage to the things that made up the room but the majority of them would be saved. In the second room by the two-and-a-half-minute mark, the fire had gotten out of control, burning just about everything in the room.

Pairett said that it is important for them to get people’s homes back into the code. “We see most of the fire fatalities happening in people’s homes. You see how a fire like that doesn’t give people a lot of time to exit their home safely. The goal is to begin to have those discussions and put fire sprinklers back into the residential code,” Pairett said.

Shane Ray, the president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association says that their message is “Smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, and firefighters. Get out, stay out, and close the door. With the fire sprinklers you can see that it contains it to the room where it starts and keeps it small. We like to say that it’s damaged but not destroyed. It can be salvaged,” Ray said.

Ray explains that in modern day you have less than five minutes to escape a home.

The installation of the sprinkler system is very affordable when building a new house. “It’s usually less than $2 per square foot,” Ray said.

Retrofitting a home will cost around twice as much money.

The sprinkler system is also helpful for firefighters, according to Ray. “Firefighters are exposed to a lot less toxins and hazards in the one with sprinklers. One hundred firefighters on average die a year but over 600 of us will die after our careers from cancer,” he said. The exposure doesn’t just come from firefighters inhaling that stuff but also the aftermath rubbing on the skin.

The annual conference ran from July 25 to the 28. Within those days, fire departments from all around the state attended the conference. Some firefighters even came from Colorado. No local fire departments attended the conference.

Juan Baeza, El Defensor Chieftain Intern