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Visitors to Lake Oswego's Public Safety Fair witness a fiery demonstration of the importance of sprinklers

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Firefighters keep close watch over a demonstration at last week's Public Safety Fair that showed how quickly a house fire can start and the difference between a home with and without a sprinkler system.Visitors to Lake Oswego's Public Safety Fair at Westlake Park got a front-row seat to a fiery demonstration of the importance of home sprinkler systems.

Police cars and fire engines lined the field Sept. 13, along with tents for organizations that ranged from NW Natural, Prep LO and 811 (Call Before You Dig) to Lake Oswego's own Parks & Recreation, Police and Fire departments. Demonstrations and training sessions were offered for hands-only CPR and emergency sandbag preparations. Booths offered information on everything from water storage and portable sanitation to seismic retrofitting and more.

There was even a hose-deployment obstacle course run by the LOFD for younger visitors and a visit from K9 Chase.

But the centerpiece was the sprinkler presentation, which featured a demonstration truck trailer on loan from the Clackamas Fire District. The trailer was divided into two rooms that were outfitted with furniture to look like the interior of a house, with the outer wall removed to give the audience a side-by-side view.

The two rooms were similarly furnished, but had one key difference: The one on the left had an automatic sprinkler, and the one on the right did not. While LOFD Fire Marshall Gert Zoutendijk narrated for the crowd of parents and kids, firefighters lit a small fire in the corner of each room to compare how they would spread.

At first, the two fires progressed identically; they slowly grew and began to spread to nearby furniture, and smoke alarms went off in both rooms after 10 seconds. But after about 30 seconds, the sprinkler system doused the fire on the left, and it stopped growing. The fire on the right expanded rapidly, and one minute later a roaring blaze had engulfed the entire room.

LOFD firefighters were on hand with a hose to keep the fire from spreading outside the trailer.

"That was incredible," said Westlake neighbor Bahar Behboodi. "I didn't even imagine that something like that could happen in 40 seconds."

Zoutendijk and Assistant Chief David Morris said this was the first time the Lake Oswego Fire Department had gotten the chance to do a public sprinkler demonstration with live fire, and the Public Safety Fair presented a great opportunity.

"This is something a lot of people haven't seen," Morris said. "They've heard about it, but they've never seen how fast a fire develops. The only reason (the fire on the left) didn't grow is because the sprinkler went off."

The demonstration clearly highlighted the difference that sprinkler systems can make, and parents in the crowd said they also appreciated the chance for their kids to get a firsthand look at the danger of out-of-control fires.

"Our kids are still a little young, but I think it's important to start them learning about fire safety," said Chad Carter, who watched the demonstration with his two children, "so they see what can happen when a fire breaks out."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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