A heated event made students pause to appreciate their dorm sprinklers Friday afternoon.
Known as “Oak Flame,” the event set two mock dorm rooms, which were constructed in Oak Lane, on fire to demonstrate the importance of sprinklers.
The two rooms were built to model a real college dorm, complete with desks, chairs, dressers, bunk beds, Chuck Norris posters, bean bag chairs and other accessories. The rooms were built to current codes and featured windows and insulated walls. One wall of each room was removed so the audience could clearly see the effects of sprinklers.
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To ignite the rooms, a cone-shaped, hand-sized heater was placed on the pillows of the bottom bunks.
“It mimics a curling iron” that has been left on, said Tolga Durak, an environmental design and planning doctoral candidate and event organizer.
In both rooms, after approximately one minute and 15 seconds, the bedding produced flames. Twenty seconds later, the smoke detector went off. Four minutes after the initial ignition, firefighters doused the flames.
The non-sprinklered room was set on fire first. In the four minutes of lag time, the comforters completely disintegrated, the beanbag chair exploded, the walls blackened and the furniture was falling apart.
In the other room, sprinklers soaked the room 10 seconds after the smoke detector went off. Firefighters doused the remaining flames once four minutes passed. The bottom bunk and the wall by the bed were blackened but little else was burnt.
Durak said the number of fires on campus has not increased, but it is still important to showcase the importance of having flame-retarding materials. After only four minutes, all of the bedding on the bottom bunk of the non-sprinklered room was completely disintegrated and seemed to speed up the fire.
The 8-foot-by-12-foot rooms were built by the Virginia Western Community College introduction to building construction class, the retrofitted sprinkler system was donated by Eagle Fire Inc., and the furnishings were donated by student affairs, according to Durak. The cost of constructing the rooms was estimated to be around $3,000 per
The Student Chapter of Fire Protection Engineers and students from the EXTREME Lab, which is composed of mechanical engineering graduates and undergraduates, connected monitors to the two rooms and recorded the events with a FLIR Infrared camera to gauge temperatures in the rooms during the burns.
Despite the rain, the turnout of spectators to Friday’s event was strong. Students and townspeople swarmed the buildings to see the fires. Many were astounded by the effects of sprinklers.
“I didn’t think it would be so impressive,” said Marie Zawispowski, a local architect.