A Brief History of Fire Sprinklers

Where would we be without fire sprinklers? This revolutionary fire safety invention has some surprising roots including Leonardo da Vinci and piano factories. The design has undergone plenty of revisions over the years. Originally, they were not as effective at controlling & extinguishing fires as they are today, but all the trial and error have led to this modern-day essential.

Let’s take a look at how we got to the fire sprinklers we have today!

The Beginning of Sprinklers

Surprisingly, the idea of fire sprinklers goes as far back as Leonardo da Vinci. Yes, the artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci himself. They were created as a safety measure to another of his inventions that failed. He created a conveyor oven to serve a large volume of food to a party. Unfortunately, this plan did not work out and lead to burnt food and a small fire. The fire sprinklers, however, worked too perfectly. They extinguished the fire but also flooded the kitchen. Read more about the event here.

Initial Innovations in Fire Protection

Subsequently, the first records of a fire sprinkler system go back to the United Kingdom in 1812 at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane. It consisted of a reservoir to hold water, main distribution pipes, and smaller pipes with small holes punctured in it to shower water in the event of a fire. However, automatic systems did not come into play until the 1860s when inventors started experimenting with the idea.

Automatic Fire Sprinklers

According to the NFPA Journal, the first automatic sprinkler system was patented in Massachusetts in 1872 by Philip W. Pratt. Henry S. Parmalee expanded on earlier models of the automatic fire sprinkler. He designed it to protect his piano factory in New Haven, Connecticut in 1874. They worked by the heat of the fire shattering a bulb and releasing water. Frederick Grinnell was the next inventor to improve on the design from 1881. He continued to develop the design for over 60 years, until it resembled some of the same concepts that bring us today’s fire sprinklers.

Modern Advancements

Lastly, fast forward to the 1950s! The fire sprinkler design has not changed much since the 1950s. The public has shifted to focus on all-around fire safety and including fire sprinkler systems into all public buildings. Schools, hotels, hospitals, and other public buildings are required by local building codes to have an operational fire protection system. All new construction high-rises and underground facilities, that firefighters have limited ability to reach with a hose, are required to have fire protection systems included in the construction.

Valley Fire Protection & Plumbing is well versed in installing new fire sprinkler systems and repairing old ones. Let us know what you need by giving us a call !

Related Topics: Fire Protection // Fire Sprinklers
By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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