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Fire Department: Sprinklers 'Saved Arbor Park School from Burning Down'

A fire sparked in a document storage room at Arbor Park Middle School Friday evening. Without the school's sprinkler system, the building could have been engulfed, one Oak Forest fire official said.

A few halls of Arbor Park Middle School are flooded, and the stench of smoke lingers—but it could have been so much worse. 

An old radio or electronic device might have been the cause of a Friday night fire, and fire officials said if not for the sprinkler system, the school might not have been standing afterward. 

"If it wasn't for the building's sprinkler system, this place would still be burning," said Oak Forest Fire Lieutenant Jack Janozik. 

No students were present at the time of the fire, which started in a document storage room in the northwest corner of the building around 5:30 p.m. Firefighters trudged through hallways filled with thick, black smoke to deactivate the sprinklers. Custodians were inside the school at the time of the fire, but all evacuated safely. Tinley Park, Matteson, Orland Park, Crestwood and Posen fire departments all helped out on the scene. 

An investigator will determine the official cause of the fire, but it appears to have started near a radio set on top of a plastic mat. 

The school's sprinkler system was essential in snuffing out the flames, and saving the thousands of documents stored in the room.

"That saved this building from burning down," Janozik said. 

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Mscholp October 26, 2012 at 11:50 PM
If there would have been smoke detection and a clean agent system there would have been less damage and none from the water. There would have only been clean up and replacement of what initiated the smoke. It would not have escalated onto a fire due to the early detection.
tom lia October 27, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Smoke Detection is in every school, state codes require it, you need detection and suppression. I am all for it, If there was a clean agent system in there the school would have to have floated a multi-million dollar bond issue for ten years of burden on the residents of oak forest, if designed properly as the school would have to be designed structurely with many more features to properly seal every room from leaking air so the agent could be held in place for a minute to extinguish a fire, and oh by the way, it would have snuffed out the life of any student, teacher or visitor if they were not evacuated in less than one minute, ever witness a schoold fire drill completed in one minute? sorry friend, just let the facts speak for themselves and be happy that no one got hurt including the responding firefighters.
Terri October 27, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Glad no one was hurt, the damage was minimal and the building and documents were saved. I wonder if the local districts could afford clean agent systems and if they would be cost-effective. According to facilities.net, clean agent systems cost 25-30 times more than sprinkler systems.
ajwsr October 27, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Clean agent typically comes with pre warning devices similar to fire alarm audio/strobe to alert occupants to provide time for people to evacuate prior to discharge. Idea is so no one is in building when discharge starts and oxygen depletion has not started prior to everyone evacuating. Sprinkler are still more cost effective in an instutional setting such as a school. It would be better to supplement computer labs or areas of high value with clean agent is done in industrial businesses. Just my past experience with such things in the fire prevention world.
M October 27, 2012 at 01:08 AM
School called tonight to let us know this happened in the Special Ed room. My daughter is a student in the classroom next door. We're guessing whatever was at the bottom of her locker is probably wet/trashed. Doesn't matter though. Just glad all the students were gone for the weekend and no one was hurt. This was a freak electrical accident. No need to get on Patch and start with the "shoulda's", so thanks Tom Lia for stating the facts.
Joe Copeland October 27, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Could you imagine the cost to the Oak Forest tax payers to replace that school, the disruption to the pupils, parents and staff of the entire school district if those sprinklers were not there ? Times are tough enough. Thanks to those responsible for having them installed.
Alyssa Mustard October 27, 2012 at 02:10 AM
i'm glad no one got hurt because my friends used to go there and there's a chance they would have known the people that got hurt if anyone did...
C.F.D. John October 27, 2012 at 02:15 AM
The most effective way to have early fire detection is with engineered smoke detection combined with engineered fire sprinklers. the first would help with the evacuation and the second is for control & suppression. This is an example of why we need fire sprinklers in every commercial and residential building. Kudos to Mr Lia and Mr Copeland for the sensible comments
Mscholp October 27, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I happen to work for a large fire suppresion company and know the codes. I see I am speaking to armchair quartebacks. Clean agent is safe for people and equipment and is quite affordable when you consider the down time and equipment, clean up and damage to the building from the fire and water. For anyone who knows fire suppresion, photo and ion smoke detectors as well as hssd detection with a releasing control panel for a clean agent system, say Novec1230 or FM-200 will detect the smoke while itr is smoldering before there is a fire and put it out. FM-200 is so safe it is used as a propelant in inhalers and as long as you stay under the LOAEL for the design concentration it is safe for prople. FM-200 has a design concetration of 7% for a class c fire and the loael is 10% so your well under, NOVEC is 4.7% and testing was done in excess of 10% with no effect so you are safe with this agent as well. I make a living protecting assests that people and companies don't want destroyed,don't want the clean up and can not have the down time by sprinklers. In data centers, computer rooms, telcom rooms etc, sprinklers are always secondary. I give classes on this subject all across the coutry and personel for fire departments happen to be in my class as well to learn the benefits of a properly designed CA system. Thanks for all your comments, it has given me some insight on more of what I must include my next class.
Mscholp October 27, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Oh, FYI the clean agents I spoke of above do not need to be completely sealed for fear of snuffing the life out of anyone, they are completely discharged in 10 seconds, no changes structuraly and again the LOAEL. Sorry my friends just letting the facts speak.
James October 27, 2012 at 03:34 AM
I agree with mscholp, I have been in fire suppresion for 10+ years. The clean agent systems are the way to go to mitigate the damage of the fire and water from the sprinklers. Sorry, no matter how many times you say engineered, it does not make sprinklers any better or detection any faster. It seems there are many who need to be educated on new technology, please read the NFPA 2001, 75, 72, etc. and the MSDS before you comment on something you do not know about.
Mike Willis Local 281 October 27, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Arm chair quarterbacks? I can't speak for anyone else but Tom Lia is not an arm chair quarterback. He has been on the front line for more than 25 years. First with the fire department and now as an advocate for fire sprinklers and the lives they can save. We can bang around the cost factor all day. Let's be thankful that sprinklers were installed and they operated correctly. Furthermore, let's be glad that school WILL be open on Monday and a truely huge disaster was extinguished. Local 281 Chicago Sprinkler Fitters have a bumper sticker that Tom Lia preaches everyday.....Fire Sprinklers Save Lives. Keep up the good work Tom. We all at Local 281 appreciate your hard work.
Tom Boyce October 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM
These clean air systems work on the premise of reducing the oxygen level that extinquishes the fire. While the effects on a healthy person in a normal deployment should not be affected, in public buildings, you may have individuals who cannot evacuate in a timely manner and may not be healthy. These systems have a place, however, driving up the cost of schools and public buildings, at the risk of safety of the public does not seem rational. I did not read all of the details, however, are "DEAD MAN" switches still required in areas where these agents are used? And do all occupents need to be properly trained on their use? IE, would a "DEAD MAN" switch need to be installed in each classroom and all of the occupants be trained in it's use? Is this even practical? Additionally, although they do not require a sealed environment, is a fully open door enough to keep the oxygen level down? Would automatic door closers need to be installed on all offices and classrooms? The fire was contained, and some smoke and water damage occured, but sound like it was kept to a minimum. Given the minimal damage, does the increased cost of such a system outweigh the insurance premiums or the cleanup itself?
Thomas Augustyn October 27, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Good thing someone had the fore sight to have fire sprinklers installed in the building besides saving the building more important they save lives
Tired of the B.S. October 27, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Surprisingly, the union sprinkler fitters tell you that their system is the best. I wonder why that is? I am not an expert on fire suppression, but I have seen first hand the damage caused by water used to put out a small fire at a friends house. Her house had a small fire and by the time the fire department was done, all the drywall from the ceilings was on the floor. Rooms that had no damage from the fire were completely destroyed, not from the fire, but from the water used to put out the fire.
Mike Fangman October 27, 2012 at 07:47 PM
The problem is some people can't get past the initial sticker shock of the high price tag.
Tired of the B.S. October 27, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Hey Mscholp, Since you are in the business, could let us know the difference in cost between the two types of systems? I am just curious if the 25-30 times higher cost reported by Terri is an accurate number.
KB281 October 27, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Lets say you did have FM 200 tanks protecting the school. How many tanks would it take to cover one classroom? What's the cost of having 1 tank recharged after it dumps? You would be recharging multiple tanks since they are ran in a series and controlled by one solenoid. How much does it cost to replace some drywall and 1 sprinkler head?
Amy Kupcake Litviak October 29, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Instead of bitching and complaining that the system isnt good enough (which it obviously worked just fine), why don't you all stop for 2 seconds and be grateful no children or staff were hurt?! Isn't that a little more important than acting like know it all's?
orland park home owner October 29, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I would like to address the person stating there was more clean up in a house fire due to sprinklers. I had a house fire in 2007 in my Orland Park home. It WAS NOT sprinkled unfortunately. The clean up from the smoke damage was about 60k as it reached the third level of my home. If the home was sprinkled the damage might have been only 20-25K according to the insurance company as well as the fire department.

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