Photo courtesy of Google Maps Street View.

The Mather in Evanston (photo courtesy of Google Maps Street View)

On December 20, a single fire sprinkler extinguished a fire after a stovetop burner was left on and ignited nearby boxes of food in a residence at The Mather, a 10-story senior living facility in Evanston. According to fire officials, no one was injured and over $150,000 in damage was prevented thanks to the quick action of the fire sprinkler.

The sprinkler save marks the second time this year that fire sprinklers prevented major fires at residential high-rises in Evanston. In March, a single fire sprinkler extinguished a kitchen fire in an apartment unit of the 11-story Housing Authority of Cook County’s Perlman Apartments high-rise. The building recently had been retrofitted with fire sprinklers in November 2015.

When the Mather was built in the late 2000s, former Evanston fire officials Michael Rons (plan reviewer), Tom Janetske (fire marshal) and Alan Berkowsky (fire chief) oversaw the fire safety system installations, including the fire sprinklers, which were installed by USA Fire Protection from Lake Forest.

“Both of the buildings where the fire sprinkler saves occurred this year have senior residents that are at high risk in the event of fires, according to the NFPA. Also, there is the added risk due to limited escape routes in high-rises,” says Evanston Fire Captain John Roche. “In each case, a single fire sprinkler averted a potentially serious incident.”

“By following national model codes that require fire sprinkler protection in high-rises, Evanston city officials are ensuring the safety of high-rise residents. That gives the city a huge life safety advantage over the city of Chicago, which unfortunately does not require all high-rises to be sprinklered,” says Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.