Terre Haute, IN -- Firefighters' efforts were hampered when a non-functioning fire sprinkler left firefighters and residents in a lurch with a lack of water.
At least 48 homeless people were staying at the Light House Mission and were displaced when a fire ravaged a 101 year old building.
The building had fire sprinklers and alarms installed, but neither worked during this fire. "When we hooked up to the [fire suppression] system, we found it inoperable, so something was wrong with it." said Norm Loudermilk of Terre Haute Fire Department.
Firefighters were called to the scene at 3am and safely evacuated everyone, but had trouble fighting the fire. Firefighters hooked the hose to the water supply valve, but nothing happened. The water supply to the sprinkler system had been shut off. This is a violation of fire code. The fire alarm was also turned off.
When fire crews inspected the fire sprinkler, they found that it had been shut off with a tag stating it was malfunctioning. The tag was years old and hadn't been re-inspected.
The fire sprinkler and alarms is the responsibility of the building owner. The owner of Light House Mission, should have had regular inspection, testing, and maintenance of their fire sprinklers, alarms, and extinguishers.
The building should have had a 24-hour fire watch until the fire sprinkler malfunction was corrected.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. At this time, electrical, arson, or accidental ignition are the prime causes be evaluated.
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