June 3, 2012
Working fire sprinklers assisted Portland Fire & Rescue this evening as they responded to a commercial fire at 2831 SW Barbur Boulevard. Fire alarm dispatch received several calls this evening; reports of heavy smoke coming from the laundry room of All Star Fitness prompted the dispatch of a full first alarm commercial fire response. All Star Fitness is located in what used to be the YMCA building.
Engine 4 (Portland State University) arrived first, performing an evaluation of the structure and indications of fire--initial radio reports were that of "Nothing showing," a common finding on commercial fires where the shear size of the structure is able to contain the products of fire and combustion for a great duration. The Fire Lieutenant assumed command, sending a "B-team" with two firefighters into the structure to investigate. Once inside firefighters forced entry to the location of the reported fire and encountered "light lazy" smoke. Reading smoke is an essential skill among firefighters who are able to judge the severity and size of a fire using several characteristics of smoke behavior. Light smoke is often an indication that water has reached the fire and that steam is being produced as a result--this is an indication that the fire is successfully being attacked. In contrast, a fire without the application of water will produce large amounts of dark smoke, often "under pressure"--an indication that a fire is growing and not under control.
Once firefighters reached the seat of the fire, they found the fire contained to the room of origin and the clothes dryer. Checking for extension, and performing overhaul, firefighters determined that the fire was nearly extinguished by the fire sprinkler system before crews were able to reach it. In the absence of a working sprinkler system, the fire likely would have spread significantly in short time it took for crews to arrive--damage could have been far greater. Combined, firefighters and fire protection systems brought the fire under control in less than 10-minutes. Time is one of the greatest commodities when fighting fire--sprinkler systems activate between one and four minutes after a fire begins--limiting fire spread, often using less water than fire hoses.
Although fire sprinkler systems were once limited to commercial occupancies, they are now widely available for residential application. The National Fire Protection Association reports the risk of death from fire in homes protected by working smoke alarms and sprinklers is 82% less than in those without. Activation of just one sprinkler during a residential fire can reduce damage to the structure by up to 90%. Systems can be installed in new or existing homes. Persons interested in Residential Sprinkler Systems can contact Portland Fire & Rescue's Prevention Division at 503-823-3700.
No injuries, to civilians or firefighters, are reported as a result of this fire. Fire cause and damage estimates are under investigation. This information will be released as it becomes available.