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Inferno pushes crowd back

"We don't do this for shock value. It is preparedness. Time is of the essence when it comes to fire safety." - Fire Marshal Officer Lance Schubert

Saturday, at Fire Station One on Princess Street West, an invaluable lesson about the effectiveness of fire sprinkler and mist suppression systems was demonstrated.

The main attraction of the Emergency Services Open House was a controlled incendiary event put on by the North Bay Prevention Office.

Two near-identical rooms were constructed by Paul Davis Systems, containing a bed, table, chair, rug, and curtains (see gallery above) In each room, there was also a waste paper basket full of paper (to be burned as the source of the fire) and a smoke detector. The main difference between them, was that one had a sprinkler system installed.

Each room was lit on fire in front of hundreds of spectators, and despite the similarities in the appearances of the two rooms, this is where the differences were astonishing.

The room without the sprinkler was completely engulfed in flames in less than three minutes, when it was extinguished with a water hose by North Bay Fire personnel. The heat from some thirty feet away was so intense, that many in attendance were forced to back away from the inferno.

The room containing the sprinkler sustained damage, but the fire was contained in half of the time that it took to get the first fire under control. When travel time of first responders is considered, it was a striking example of how fires in offices, public builidings, hospitals, and even some domiciles can be suppressed at a highly effective rate with a sprinkler system.

The event included a wide array of members of the first responders' community, from the obvious (North Bay Police, O.P.P., Paramedics) to some less-publicized, yet equally important partners in emergency services, such as North Bay Hydro and North Bay Transit, who provide shelter for displaced victims of fire in winter months with their buses.

Randy Vezina, Captain of Fire Prevention, spoke strongly about the benefits of fire suppression systems: "The Fire Service would like to see this happen. Absolutely. Now you have twenty-four hour protection, and rather than a fire get to a point where firefighters have to come in, with water, and overhauling ceilings, the fire is held to its origin, it never leaves the room."

"The price of sprinklers in homes is dropping like a stone. Not as prohibitve as in the past. The problem is with the existing infrastructure, whether the water main to the house is a reasonable size. This is where the mist system comes in. said Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bechard.

One of the leaders in this new mist technology is a local company, Gridline Design Inc., led by President Dave Aspin. "Because the particles are so fine, the mist can penetrate to the base of the fire and suppress it. It doesn't put the fire out, but it reduces the amount of eventual water damage to the building, and most importantly saves the lives of the public, and our firefighters," relayed Bechard.

As special guest,and Fire Marshal, Lance Schubert put it when addressing the crowd: "Unfortunately, as a fire investigator, I am a witness to the consequences of major fires that occur in homes and businesses. I am a great proponent of what your Fire Service is doing to educate your community in fire safety."


Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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