Sprinkler system activation credited for containing blaze, limiting smoke damage

by: TUALATIN VALLEY FIRE & RESCUE - A fire at Bethany Athletic Club apparently started in this utility area and was largely contained by the sprinkler system activating on Friday morning.A fire in a utility area at Bethany Athletic Club on Friday morning led to the club being evacuated and closed for a couple of days to repair damages and clean.

Light smoke detected in the building at 15670 N.W. Central Drive prompted staff to call 911 just before 7:30 a.m. First-arriving firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue concentrated initially on evacuating patrons and locating the source of the smoke, which they discovered in a mechanical room on the building's third floor.

The heat and smoke activated two sprinkler heads, limiting the fire's reach. Firefighters used portable water extinguishers to finish the job and remained on scene to help gym members retrieve belongings and clean up water, TVF&R officials reported.

A fire investigator determined the most probable cause of the fire was the placement of combustibles next to a furnace vent used to remove carbon monoxide and flue gasses. A damage estimate was not available.

The fire demonstrates how effective sprinklers, which are required in commercial buildings, can be at limiting property damage and allowing people to escape safely, fire officials said. Water damage from a sprinkler activation is small compared to the ravaging effects of a fire and smoke from a blaze that burns for a short time.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments use up to 10 times as much water to extinguish a home fire as fire sprinklers would use to extinguish the same fire.

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