Automatic Alarm Credited with Saving Old Hotel
Some time ago the Greenwood House, combination hotel and stores, of Greenwood Lake, N. Y., installed what was then a new automatic heat actuated fire detection and alarm system. The proprietors of the 20-room 50-year-old structure, as well as the storekeepers were concerned lest fire wipe out their holdings, as it had previously done to another structure at almost the same location. Members of the Greenwood Lake Fire Department, Chief Fred Christman, also displayed interest in the system which was equally new to them.
The particular system installed consists of an audible and visible alarm device mounted on the exterior of the hotel, in turn connected to thermostatic heat detectors, so located as to best protect the property. This alarm system operates on the temperature-rise principle, the thermostats breaking a circuit when the temperature reaches a prescribed limit (in the case of the particular installation, said to be 165° F.) actuating a loud siren and a flasher light which is intended to notify any passersby to call the Fire Department.
The hotel was equipped with a number of detectors installed at locations such as the kitchen, where fire was most likely to develop.
On the evening of January 19, 1949, the stores were closed and there were said to be three occupants of the hotel, and the manager. Charles Christ, in the structure when the strident squawking of the siren sounded and the notification signal flashed its warning message. The time was about 7:25 P. M.
The first reaction of the neighbors, as well as the management, was that perhaps the local firemen were conducting a test, such as they had held on a number of previous occasions. As the alert continued, however, the police responded and at about the same time, the manager investigated and found fire in the kitchen. There was considerable smoke in this area and in the adjoining store. About this time, too, ex-chief Herbert Wilson, of the local volunteers, reached the scene from his home, three blocks distant, where he had heard the signal.
At 7:28 P. M., the corner box near the hotel was pulled, and the two Greenwood Lake Companies, No. 1 and No. 2, were quickly on the scene. The fire had by this time penetrated the ceiling of the kitchen, and had communicated to the shelving of the retail store next door, involving the flimsy wallboard partitions and woodwork.
The booster line from No. 2 Company was stretched and operated on the fire, while a heavier line was being laid to hack up the unit. The prompt response and effective work of the volunteers held the losses on building and contents to $350.
The alarm also served to alert the guests and employes of the hotel and get them safely out of the structure.
Investigation into the Laze by Chief Christman disclosed that the fire was caused by an overheated kitchen range. The heat had actuated two of the thermostat heads. It was only necessary to replace the two thermostats and a portion of burned connecting wire in order to restore the signal system to use.