Metro-East News

This is how you can stay safe if your Christmas tree catches fire

Two rooms, two real Christmas trees, fake presents and a fire in a vacant house. Room No. 1 has a sprinkler system while room No. 2 does not. Which one goes up in flames?

As Belleville firefighters demonstrated Wednesday during a training exercise, the difference between the two fires is significant.

Room No. 1 reached 182 degrees as a lit candle caught presents, a tree and part of a chair on fire. A sprinkler system was set off, releasing several gallons of water in the room, sparing the house and most of the tree.

The fire in room No. 2, peaking at 1,246 degrees, left remains of what was once a tree and a couch.

The fire department said it wants residents to know what sprinklers could do in the event of a house fire. Firefighters say this is also the time of the year to remind people to water any real tree they may bring inside their home for the holidays.

“Just smoke detectors or early warning devices can get you out of the house. The sprinkler system is going to help that happen, but the damage that was done in that (first) bedroom can easily be fixed in a day’s time back in the house. Otherwise, this house would not be inhabitable for quite a while,” Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour said.

The Belleville Fire Department completed the training exercise and live house demonstration with help from Boyer Fire Protection and Schaefer Engineering, out of Wentzville, Mo. Boyer Fire Protection installed the residential sprinkler system inside the vacant house on the 100 block of State Street. The house, which is set to be demolished, was donated to the fire department for training purposes.

Boyer Fire Protection, based in Belleville, said sprinklers can save lives as well as protect property, including newer homes that sometimes feature more combustible, lightweight materials. The National Fire Protection Association also supports the use of sprinkler systems, estimating that a person in home fire is about 80 percent less likely to die if sprinklers are present.

“This experiment worked better than we had planned,” Assistant Fire Chief J.P. Penet said. “The single sprinkler head over the fire went off. Directly above you is a second sprinkler installed in the room. The cover dropped, but it never sprayed water because it didn’t get hot enough over there, so a single sprinkler head controlled this Christmas tree fire.”

During the demonstrations, Belleville firefighters also captured video of the fires from inside the two rooms. The video is expected to be available to the public on the fire department Facebook page.

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

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