Demo Shows How Fast A Fire Can Spread

BRICK – The fire started in a trashcan, and within a matter of seconds it spread to nearby curtains and to the ceiling. The room would have been completely engulfed in flames if not for the sprinkler system, which extinguished the fire immediately.

Luckily, the room wasn’t in a home but rather in a burn trailer demonstration held at the Laurelton Firehouse and hosted by The New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSB), who come to Brick every year and teach the children who attend Brick Police Youth Camp about fire safety.

The campers watched through a large picture window at the mock room furnished with a filled trash can and curtains. They saw how quickly the fire spread and the overall effectiveness of fire sprinklers.

Children watch as fire spreads through a mock room in a trailer. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

“The sprinkler system doesn’t always fully extinguish the fire, but it saves lives because the system contains the fire and buys time for the occupants to safely exit or escape the structure,” said NJFSB state coordinator Frank Ellis, who divided the 51 campers into groups of four for the demonstration and fire safety talk.

“A smoke alarm alone does not provide enough protection in the event of a fire,” he added.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2016 (the most recent year available) there were 1,342,000 fires reported in the country which resulted in 3,390 deaths.

Ellis said the NJFSB would like to see sprinkler systems installed in all homes, but in New Jersey it is only required in commercial structures.

“Right now, Maryland and California are the only states that require sprinkler systems are installed in new construction,” he said. “We’re trying to get that changed in New Jersey.”

The cost is about the same as a new granite countertop – about $2 per square foot in New Jersey, with a national average of $1.37 a square foot – or about $5,000, Ellis said.

Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn

Brick Fire Bureau Marshall and volunteer firefighter at the Laurelton Fire Company Dave Bahrenburg said very few homes in the township have sprinkler systems.

“We love it when [NJFSBB] come here because it’s great for the public to understand how sprinklers can help with fire safety,” he said. “It would be nice to have them in every home.”

Ellis conducts the burn house demonstration about 60 times a year, and has come to various fire stations in Brick and to National Night Out in Windward Beach Park.

Nitalia Booker, 13, attends the Police Camp and was in the first group to see the burn trailer demonstration.

“It was cool. I didn’t know that different sprinklers have different colors and that means they go off at different heats,” she said.

She also learned that sprinklers are heat – not smoke – activated, and they create steam after the water hits the fire.

The mission of the NJFSAB is to save lives and protect property by educating the public about fire safety, demonstrating the benefits and effectiveness of fire sprinklers, and supporting fire-safe building codes and legislation.

For more information call 1-866-226-6066 or visit