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A late night fire occurs at an old mill building that houses a window manufacturing company in a small Northeast town. The fire is set by a couple of adventurous young gentlemen, in a dumpster parked outside the building. The dumpster fire gets going pretty good. The dumpster is parked about five feet from the wall, which has windows on all levels, adjacent to and right over the dumpster.
When the fire department arrives, the fire is already in the building. Information says that the building is protected by automatic sprinklers and an automatic gasoline fire pump that takes suction from the river that runs by the mill. Procedures call for the first arriving fire department personnel to verify that the pump is operating. They verify the pump running, and flow and pressure are being provided to the operating sprinklers.
However, upon building entry, it is noticed that the fire has spread quite a ways into the center of the building, and sprinklers appear to be operating. Interior attacking fire fighters radio back that the centers are missing from sprinklers, but not much water is flowing. An aggressive interior attack controls the fire, and it is eventually suppressed. In the post-fire investigation, it is noticed that there are a number of sprinklers that fused on the perimeter of the building, along the wall where the fire entered the building, but there is no evidence that water flowed from many of the sprinklers.
When the investigation turned to the operation of the sprinklers, it was thought that perhaps the control valve to the system was, at least partially, closed...but it wasn't. The building sprinklers were connected to a dry pipe valve, and the system and valve dated back to the 1940's...plainly speaking, the valve was a mess. Most likely, so were the pipes connected to it.
© Hughes Associates,Inc. 2012