Firefighters demonstrate sprinklers at Brat Fest

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Madison’s Brat Fest is filled with music, food and fun—but on Saturday, the event also featured a more serious fire safety demonstration, displaying the necessity of home sprinklers.

This is the first year the demonstration, organized by the National Protection Fire Association (NFPA) and the Madison Fire Department, has come to Brat Fest.

The demonstration was set up with two identically furnished rooms, with one caveat: one room had sprinklers installed, and the other did not. Next, firefighters started what could be a wastebasket fire in each room, demonstrating how quickly it spread in each situation.

According to Guy Santelli, a Kenosha fire fighter and member of the NFPA Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, most homes are not equipped with sprinklers. Without fire sprinklers, chances for survival are limited, Santelli said. Firefighters typically arrive within eight to 10 minutes, but deadly conditions are typically reached much sooner.

“What I’m hoping they’ve taken away from it is they can see exactly how fire builds, exactly how fire kills people and how quick it can kill people at that two and a half minute mark, where you’re completely inhabitable and you won’t survive that fire,” Santelli said.

According to Santelli, fabrics and materials in furniture such as drapes, couches and chairs burn faster and are also more likely to ignite now than 40 years ago. He said that though smoke detectors are important in alerting residents to fires, residential sprinkler systems could save lives.

“As you can see, having home-furnished sprinklers is like having a full-time fire fighter on-duty, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365, protecting,” said Santelli during the demonstration.

Josephine Horton, who watched the demonstration, said she found it to be both interesting and terrifying.

"“Even with them pumping water on it, it just kept burning,” she said, speaking about the room without sprinklers. “That material in there just doesn’t want to go out. You think, oh you can just dump some water on it and it’ll stop and that’s not how it worked."

Horton said that she does not currently have sprinklers where she lives.

“It is something that I’ve thought about when we have a new home built or when we move,” she said, “Seeing in person, it really drives it home.”

Santelli, who led the demonstration, has been a firefighter his entire life and has worked with the Kenosha department for 23 years.

“I’ve always had a heart for fire prevention,” Santelli said. “At the top of the list for fire prevention is residential sprinkler systems and trying to save as many residential homeowners as we can.”

The NFPA also wrapped up Home Fire Sprinkler Week on Saturday.