​​Sprinklers help​ save lives at Meadowlands assisted living facility

​​​​​​June 10, 2024

Firepro sprinkler system This sprinkler system helped prevent a May fire from turning deadly.

It was just before 5 in the morning on May 1 when an air exchange unit malfunction caused a fire at an assisted living facility in Meadowlands, Minn. Thankfully, the building had a fire sprinkler system, which activated and alerted both staff members and residents to the problem and extinguished the flames.

Fire sprinkler systems can mean the difference between life and death, according to experts in our State Fire Marshal (SFM) division. In this case, it gave Meadowlands firefighters time to get the residents out of the building safely. While some residents suffered minor smoke inhalation injuries, no one was killed, and the building avoided total destruction.

“You may only have minutes to escape from a burning building, and fire sprinklers give you time when time is limited," Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Amanda Swenson said. “Each second gives you and your loved ones more time to get to safety."

Those seconds are becoming more precious than ever, as fires burn hotter and faster due to all the plastics and synthetic materials in home furnishings. Luckily, sprinkler systems are making a difference. Our partners across the state reported 92 buildings were saved by sprinkler systems in 2023; however, we know not every save gets reported.

Fire sprinkler systems are designed to control fires until the fire department arrives. Unlike the ones you might see in the movies, real fire sprinklers are activated by heat, which breaks a bulb inside the sprinkler and starts the flow of water. Since it is heat activated, depending on the fire, only one or two sprinkler heads may activate. This slows the fire and also limits the amount of water released.

The Minnesota State Fire Code requires fire sprinklers in certain types of buildings, including schools, hospitals, nursing homes and hotels, to help protect those who may have challenges in evacuating on their own. Though not required everywhere, fire sprinkler systems increase fire safety in every building they are installed in, whether it's a private residence or an assisted living facility.

These steps can also increase your fire safety:

  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms and change their batteries twice per year.
  • Create a fire escape plan, including two ways out of each room.
  • Always stay in the kitchen while you're cooking. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are going to smoke, smoke outside and dispose of the butts in a container of either sand or water. Never smoke while using medical oxygen or in a home where medical oxygen is being used.

Learn more about fire safety on our SFM website.​