Fire - Failed Sprinkler System

A fire occurred on the sixth floor of this building which was occupied as a stock room of a sweater and bathing-suit manufacturer. Fire had gained considerable headway when discovered and had spread over top of wooden table among wrapping cord, burlap, paper, etc., and thence to stock shelves directly in back of table. Fire occurred at a point between non-staggered automatic fire sprinkler s where the distribution of water was obstructed by wooden partitions and shelves. The automatic fire sprinkler s in the immediate vicinity of the fire showed signs of having been painted and were unquestionably slow in operating.

This fact together with obstructions and non-staggering of automatic fire sprinkler s allowed fire to spread rapidly. The heat caused the operation of fifty-three automatic fire sprinkler heads, although the fire was confined to an area covered by four or five. Since this was the top story of the building the automatic fire sprinkler s were further hampered by low water pressure from the gravity tank supply which was only nine pounds on highest line of automatic fire sprinklers. In spite of the fact that the conditions described herein were unfavorable to positive automatic fire sprinkler control, it is of interest to note that the automatic fire sprinkler system held the fire in check and confined it to a small area until the arrival of the fire department.

Two workmen were making repairs to the piping in the engine room basement near the fly wheel. They needed artificial light and a gas torch attached to the gas burner in the basement was used. An accumulation of lint and grease in the wooden enclosure around the fly wheel became ignited and burned rapidly as there\ were no automatic fire sprinklers inside this enclosure. The lack of automatic fire sprinklers in the wooden casing of the fly wheel and the wooden belt boxing in the room directly over it together with the belts furnished sufficient fuel for the fire to make good in dry fire protection systems, particularly in the case of large loss fires. The effect of different water pressures in the two fire protection systems does not seem to have been a factor.

Apparently the time element necessary for water to reach a fire through the dry pipe system is an important factor and results in a greater number of sprinkler heads having opened than in the wet system. Flames from the fire spread up through the belt room but were prevented from entering the mill proper on each floor by the operation of automatic fire sprinkler s. The main belting was destroyed while nineteen cards were wet and there was considerable damage to ring spinning frames and to about 200 frames in the first two stories. In the upper stories the counter belts driving the two upper floors of the mill passed out through the wall of the tower without protection for the openings thus formed and were a factor in causing the loss of approximately $180,000.

This fire occurred in a silk shoddy mill and was extinguished with fire pails, chemicals and three private fire hose streams. The automatic fire sprinklers were a failure. Modern 360° heads in glass covers had recently been installed in the dryers and although examination of the heads afterwards showed them to be apparently in good condition, they did not operate at the time of fire. It would appear that the high temperature solder together with the glass tops had raised the operating point too high.


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