Large (“Monster”) House Fires

In Howard County, Maryland, a fire totally destroyed a newly built “monster” house (a house of large proportions, from 8,000 square feet and up), in a nonhydranted area. The house was a total loss–$8 to 9 million for the building and contents. A comprehensive article on “monster” houses will appear in the April 2004 Ol’ Professor column.

Since the fire, of course, there is talk of sprinklers. The following points are important points relative to the belief that sprinklers would prevent such a huge loss.

Sprinkler systems installed in such buildings are partial systems, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13 D or E, aimed at preventing flashover before occupants can escape. The interconnected voids are not sprinklered. If property protection is desired, a standard NFPA 13 system would be necessary. Such a system would cover all the voids. [Reference: Building Construction for the Fire Service, Third Edition, (National Fire Protection Association, 1992), pages 588-589].

If the fire originates in or extends into the unsprinklered voids, the building may be a total loss, as happened to a five-story apartment house in Solomons, Maryland, when fire from burning mulch extended into the voids.

Some jurisdictions have required developers to provide underground storage tanks for drafting.

Francis L Brannigan, SFPE (fellow), author Building Construction for the Fire Service

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