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Firefighters learn sprinkler installation at Habitat home

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
Members of the Salisbury Fire Department were working Wednesday to put themselves out of business.
They made quite a bit of headway.
About 12 firefighters were given a crash course on how to install a residential sprinkler system. The lesson was administered inside a Habitat for Humanity house under construction on Carpenter’s Circle in the Forest Creek subdivision.
The subdivision is made up of Habitat homes.
“They’re in the business of saving lives,” Coleman Emerson said as he watched the firefighters taking their first stabs at installing a sprinkler system.
“They’re trying to work themselves out of a job.”
Emerson is director of the Salisbury chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Though the Carpenter’s Circle house marked the first time a Habitat home in Salisbury has been outfitted with a sprinkler system, it won’t be the last.
The lesson that Salisbury firefighters were given was administered by Floyd Fritz, deputy fire chief for Pinehurst.
Fritz has been involved in similar projects since 1996 and said that over the years, he and fellow firefighters have installed sprinklers in 136 Habitat houses in Moore County.
Another 100 have been installed in Habitat houses elsewhere across the state as Fritz has spread word ó and offered installation instructions ó to members of other fire departments.
He said companies that manufacture pipes for the sprinkler systems donate the equipment to Habitat. Habitat’s international office has backed installation of sprinkler systems in all its homes.
Firefighters play an instrumental role in the process. They volunteer their time to install the systems that would typically cost anywhere from 1 to 2 percent of the home’s price.
The end result, agreed Fritz and others who busied themselves with the project Wednesday, is little short of phenomenal.
“It turns a complete loss into a one-room fire,” said Brian Goins, plans examiner for the Rowan County Building Department, who was on hand Wednesday to observe the proceedings.
Terry Smith, fire marshal for the Salisbury Fire Department, said the installation of sprinklers will be the latest volunteer activity in which firefighters are involved.
He said firefighters already install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for the elderly and others, as well as flashing lights that warn hearing-impaired residents of fires.
“This just takes it a step further,” Smith said of the installation of sprinklers.
He said the process shouldn’t be especially difficult for firefighters.
“It’s something we’ll learn today and be able to do tomorrow,” Smith said.
Fritz agreed. He said the process of installing the sprinklers is relatively simple, especially for firefighters who tend to be a handy bunch.
“There’s no reason two guys couldn’t do it in less than two hours and enjoy it while they’re doing it,” Fritz said of the installation of a system.
He said the system he was introducing incorporates a sprinkler system with the home’s plumbing. Hot water flows low through the floors while cold water flows in the sprinkler system overhead.
Fritz said even for homeowners who opt to pay for the installation of such a system, the cost is quickly recouped through a 15-to-20 percent reduction in the price of insurance premiums.
Fritz said he’s seen fires in three houses where he’s helped install sprinkler systems. All three, he said, did minimal damage.
Fritz said that at one of those houses, the sprinkler quickly extinguished the fire, and the homeowner had to call the fire department only because he forgot how to cut off the alarm.
The house that firefighters were working at Wednesday is the 74th Habitat home erected in Rowan County. Plans are for Salisbury firefighters to install sprinkler systems in all future Habitat homes.

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