This is What Can Happen When the Sprinkler System Doesn’t Work…

The previous post on fire protection systems training talked about systems and the importance of maintaining that equipment.  The following describes one instance and the consequences if the sprinkler system isn’t operational.

On December 1, 2008 a warehouse building, located in Dyersburg Tennessee and owned by the Bekaert Corporation, was destroyed by fire. The building complex is shown in the photo below.

 

The wing on the left was the side that was completely destroyed. At the time of the fire, the warehouse had been leased to Briggs and Stratton for storage of their lawn mower products.  It was later determined that Briggs and Stratton lost approximately $25,000,000.00 in inventory.  When the lease was signed, one of the clauses stated that Briggs accepted the building in an “As Is, Where Is” condition.  It also required Briggs to make any repairs required by codes to bring the building into compliance.  Codes, in turn, required that Briggs obtain a certificate of occupancy prior to moving into the building – neither of which were done.  (Our involvement in this investigation was as a codes consultant.)  Briggs moved in to the building, brought in their products and stacked them to the point where the use of the building would have been classified “High Piled Storage”.  For over one year, the building contained products that were put at risk by the manufacturer, Briggs and Stratton.  When the investigation into the fire had been completed, there were some differing opinions as to the cause of the fire.  However, most of the discussion was centered on a metal halide lamp and a bulb that possibly exploded.  Because most of Briggs’ products were stacked above 12 feet, the explosion of a metal halide bulb could easily have ignited combustible material, ie, pallets wrapped with plastic. With no sprinkler system in operation, there was no way to stop the fire in its initial stages.  As a result, the building and all its contents were destroyed.

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About rjhillconsulting
R.J. Hill Consulting is a forensic consulting engineering firm that specializes in performing failure investigations for attorneys and insurance companies. Mr. R.J. Hill is a registered professional (mechanical) engineer with over 37 years of experience, 33 years in private practice. Please visit www.rjhill.com to see the kinds of forensic investigations that Mr. Hill performs.

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