Fire Shows Necessity of Sprinkler Maintenance
The following excerpts from a recent report of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters emphasizes the need for the proper maintenance of automatic sprinkler installations:
Report on Fire—September 14, 1924 at 9:15 A. M., 104-106 Charlton St., Emergency Trucking & Warehousing Corp.
New York, September 29, 1924.
“Construction—A seven story and basement building of ordinary brick construction, in good repair. Area 5,625 square feet. The walls are brick independent cast and west, inches. Front is brick above 1st, supported by unprotected iron girders and column on 1st. Finish open. Roof composition on metal, joisted with a brick cornice. Floors are single, 1-inch joisted. Ceilings are open. There is one stairway in No. 104, basement to 7th, boxed on some floors with wooden doors, and on some floors trapped with wooden traps. One elevator in No. 104 enclosed in 6-inch tile shaft basement through roof, with thin glass on metal skylight over and having automatic rolling steel doors at 1st and substandard tin clad fire doors to floors above. There is also one elevator in No. 106 not enclosed, but provided with automatic wooden traps. No. 104 is separated from No. 106 by a good fire wall with one opening on each floor protected by automatic tin clad fire doors on one side of wall only.
“Exposures—North risk has flat frame iron shutters above 1st on street. East blank wall. South 10 feet to wired glass windows on fireproof exposure and 20 feet to unprotected windows in dwelling, risk has flat framed iron shutters. West blank wall.
(Continued on page 949)
Necessity of Sprinkler Maintenance
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“Protection—There was one cask of water and three tire pails at each cask on each floor. The building was piped tor automatic sprinklers in 1912 and the system as installed was not approved. There were numerous defects. The two most important being the insufficient size of the gravity tank and the lack of maintenance. Some time in 1921 the gravity tank was removed.
“Origin and Spread—The fire originated from an unknown cause apparently on the 5th floor of No. 106 and spread to the 6th and 7th floors of this building. It did not spread into the No. 104 side of building at any point.
“Discovery and Alarm—Smoke was discovered coming from the building by a pedestrian passing on street and an alarm was turned in from a street box at 9:15 A. M. Upon arrival of the fire department second and third alarms were turned in at 9:41 and 9:51 A. M., respectively. A total of 14 engines, 5 trucks, 1 rescue squad, 1 water tower and 2 fire boats responded.
“HowFought—Upon arrival of the fire department it is claimed they immediately connected a line to the street Siamese connection of the sprinkler equipment. The high pressure system was in operation with one hundred and twenty-five pounds pressure. No water was discharged through the sprinkler heads and it was necessary for the fire department to fight the fire entirely with hose streams in the usual manner. In order to get at the seat of the fire a breaching was made in the division wall between No. 104 and No. 106 on the 5th floor.
“Examination of the sprinkler equipment after the fire indicated it was generally intact, except that in the basement under the sidewalk a one and one quarter inch branch pipe had been removed and the opening was not plugged. Smaller branch pipes on the upper floors had apparently been removed, but the pipes w-ere capped. The gravity tank had been removed some three years prior to the fire and the top of the dead riser w-as plugged. The system at the time of the fire depended entirely upon the street Siamese fire department connection for its water supply. Investigation revealed the faet that the control valve under the dry valve was tightly shut. This prevented the fire department from getting any water whatever into the system. The fire opened approximately seventy-five heads and the collapse of the 6th and 7th floors in No. 106 destroyed the piping on these floors.
“Damage—The sixth and seventh floors of No. 106 collapsed and the stock on these two floors and on the 5th was almost completely destroyed. The roof of this portion of the building was also destroyed. The stock on the lower floors of this section, especially the basement, is badly damaged by smoke and water. Apparently a large portion of the stock in the No. 104 side of building is damaged by smoke and water, but most of this stock is in closed cases and the extent of the damage cannot be determined.
“Conclusions—The cause of this fire is not known. The goods on storage would appear to be of such a character as to preclude the possibility of spontaneous combustion and the cause is mysterious. The warehouseman states that the building was closed and locked at about 3 P. M. on Saturday and the fire occurred at about 9:15 the following Sunday morning. The stock on 5th floor besides paper consists of toys and Christmas tree ornaments belonging to E. J. Horsman Co., Inc., B. Ilfeder and Co. and the Progressive Agency. The stocks were in wooden cases and consisted of kid and composition dolls, papier mache horses, wooden dominos, children’s metal sets, glass Christmas tree ornaments, paper decalcomanias and china tea sets; also there were some dolls finished in imitation material called Kidoline which was manufactured of cloth and finished with an enamel. These latter dolls wore imparted from Germany. All of this merchandise had been in storage for some time. The warehouseman asserts that no authorized person w-as in the building after it was closed on Saturday and has no idea of the cause of the fire other than it might have been possible for boys to gain access by means of the rear fire escape. Aside from the cause, the two outstanding features appear to be first, the necessity of scoring paper in rolls so as to allow for expansion and second the unreliability of sprinkler equipments that are not supervised.
(Continued on page 952)
Necessity of’ Sprinkler Maintenance
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“The regulations of the board tor approved public warehouses provide that where paper in rolls is stored, a clear space shall be left at the walls and columns to allow the hulk to expand freely 20 per cent, in any direction when wet. This allowance has appeared large to some of the warehousemen and from time to time we have found it necessary to impress upon them the importance of observing the requirement. It is quite possible that if the requirements for expansion had not been observed in this fire, the damage to the building would have been much more severe.
“An automatic sprinkler equipment without adequate water supply is of little value and a system left to take care of itself soon lapses into uselessness. No recognition was given to the system as installed in this property and the fact that the control valve underneath the dry valve was found shut after the fire, is the reason the fire department were unable to get any water to the sprinkler heads when they connected to the Siamese on the street. Had this valve been open it is doubtful if adequate water could have reached the seat of the fire due to the opening that was not plugged in the branch line in the basement and it is quite probable that additional water damage would have been caused because of the water discharged from this unplugged opening, which was located remote from the fire.”