Poorly Reported Sprinkler Save Leads to NFSA Request for Correction

We could not help ourselves! After seeing this news coverage of a fire sprinkler save, a Request for Correction was submitted yesterday evening to WATE-TV Knoxville. This is the link to the story that prompted my response: https://www.wate.com/news/top-stories/dozens-displaced-after-small-fire-at-summit-towers-sets-off-large-sprinkler-system/

I am sharing my submission in its entirety…


Considering the two recent, fatal, residential fires in buildings unequipped with fire sprinkler systems that have gained national attention, those of us at the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) were appalled and surprised by the tone of your recent article regarding an apartment building fire in Knoxville that was contained by the building’s fire sprinkler system.

The article was entitled “Hundreds displaced after small fire at Summit Towers sets off large sprinkler system.” We suggest the article should have had the following headline: “Hundreds saved after fire sprinklers contain fire at Summit Towers”

The reporter mentions that the fire was small. The fire was small because the fire sprinkler system activated and controlled it. Had that building not been equipped with a sprinkler system, we are quite certain you’d be writing another kind of story, one we’d rather not think about, especially since this apartment building housed elderly and disabled residents!

It is reporting such as this that skews the public perception of these life- and property-saving systems. There has never been a multiple-fatality fire in a building with a properly installed and maintained fire sprinkler system…never! Now, there’s an angle for an article, one that we are sure would be positively received in wake of the tragic fires in unsprinklered buildings in New York City and Philadelphia, where so many lives were lost and so many were injured.

Those tragedies were not the only tragedies. The fact is that over 126 people have died in fires in the first ten days of 2022, some of those 126 were entire families. In that same time span, over 27 children have died in six different fires.

NFSA’s President Shane Ray, a former fire chief in Pleasant View, TN, stated the following to many media outlets over the past week, “I hate telling everyone, but unfortunately approximately 240 more people will likely die this month. Yes, I know COVID has killed over 800,000. Well, we can’t stop that, but we can this.” He went on to share data he collected from the United States Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. 31,591 people have died in their homes (residential occupancies) since 2010. In the same period, only 63 people have died in homes with fire sprinklers. We know that some of the 63 that perished were intimate with the fire, meaning they set themselves on fire because of smoking while on oxygen.

President Ray stands at the ready to speak with your reporter regarding the stellar record of fire sprinkler systems in residential fires. Remember, everything dries out, nothing unburns.

I will conclude this request for correction by saying that I love Knoxville, TN. You educated my father, who graduated from UTK in 1964, and you educated my son, who graduated in 2016. My son lived in off-campus sprinklered housing his entire time there and I am so grateful to the Knoxville Fire Department for their progressive fire prevention work over the years. I’m simply asking you to reconsider your coverage of incidents where fire sprinklers save the day, preventing loss of life and destruction of property. Fire sprinklers buy time. Time buys life. It’s really that simple.

Thank you,
Vickie Pritchett
Waverly, TN