You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

On a recent vacation trip along the south shore of Lake Superior, my wife and I pulled into a small gas station in Cornucopia, Wisconsin to fuel up the truck. Another driver flagged me down, and that driver happened to be a former colleague and friend from Saint Paul Fire, Frank. He and his wife, Sue, invited us back to his lakeshore home to watch the sunset and to visit for the evening, and we accepted. We had last visited his home while it was still under construction. Now complete, the house was beautifully outfitted with custom stone and woodwork, tastefully furnished with a north woods flair, and I noticed immediately that the home was equipped with a fire sprinkler system.

Frank told me about a conversation he had with another fire colleague and friend, Nyle Zikmund, the former Fire Chief of Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View (SBM) Fire Department. Nyle had outfitted his home with fire sprinklers. Based on that conversation, Frank knew that fire sprinklers were the best option for his new lakeshore home in the largely remote area of northwestern Wisconsin.

The system in Frank’s house is filled with a glycerin-based anti-freeze solution to prevent the piping from freezing and uses an electric pump and 300-gallon water storage tank with an automatic re-fill valve to serve as the water supply. The system was designed and installed by Viking Automatic Sprinkler Company and is a 13D system with the addition of upright sprinklers in the attic as well (another option influenced by Frank’s conversation with Nyle). Viking had provided a diagram of the system and some recommendations for simple maintenance checks. Frank reported there has never been a problem with the system even in sometimes severe sub-zero weather.

Our evening evolved into a long conversation about children, grandchildren, and vacation homes. It was a wonderful evening surrounded by the allure of the “Big Lake” and the solitude of the north woods. Reflecting back on the serendipitous meeting at the gas station on the ride home, I kept thinking about our good friends, Frank and Sue. But I also pondered the great advice Nyle had given to Frank and the power of individual advocacy in supporting fire sprinklers. I thought of our industry’s code and technological improvements that paved the way for superior protection of a home in what is essentially a very remote and oftentimes frigid stretch of northern wilderness. And I thought about the irony of taking a vacation to get away from “work” for a while, only to spend part of the evening talking “sprinklers” with an old friend. I guess you can run, but you cannot hide from our life-saving work. In fact, who would want to?