Sprinkler soaks Basalt gallery
January 18, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoBASALT Toklat Gallery in Basalt had a showing that it would just as soon forget Thursday afternoon.A sprinkler activated in the residence above Toklat in one of the Riverwalk buildings on the east end of Midland Avenue, flooding the unique gallery. Water gushed from light sockets, heat ducts, bolt holes and invisible seams in the gallery’s ceiling.Manager Mindi Langston and her sister Lisa Mills were visiting near the entrance around 2 p.m., when drips initially came from just one spot. Langston placed a container beneath the drip, but soon she and her sister were like the Dutch boy at the dike scrambling to deal with various leaks.
It went from a drip to a gusher in three to five minutes, Mills said. They soon had a dozen trash cans and containers of all sizes sitting beneath streams of water.Within a few minutes they were aided by vendors who happened to be in the gallery and at least one passer-by, as well as Basalt police and community safety officers and firefighters. Helpers dashed out the back door with full buckets of water and rotated empty containers under the streams. The screech of fire alarms added urgency – or at least irritation – to the scene.The Basalt fire department saved the day, Langston said, by bringing tarps to cover the gallery’s stock – everything from Zapotec Indian weavings from southern Mexico to hand-crafted furniture.Firefighters also covered computers and other equipment in an architect’s office, a lighting company and other businesses that were drenched to varying degrees.
Langston was so busy dealing with the disaster and cleanup that she didn’t immediately have time to assess damage to the crafts. “We’ll be up and running [today],” she vowed.Jerry Peetz, Basalt’s assistant fire chief, responded to the scene when an alarm company detected “water flow” in the residence. It took about 16 minutes to travel to the scene, assess the source of the problem, then locate and close the water supply, he said. Nobody was home at the residence at the time of the flood.Although only one sprinkler in the kitchen was triggered, it released enough water to drench the residence and five commercial units in the lower two levels of the building. Peetz said the sprinkler was designed to release 22 gallons per minute, so a total of about 350 gallons was released.The event could have been more catastrophic: The sprinkler extinguished the pilot light in a range, and the residence filled with gas, Peetz said. An electronic ignition kept trying to relight the pilot light. Workers with the gas and electric utilities were called to the scene to shut down service to the residence, Peetz said, and it was ventilated to remove the danger of an explosion.
The fire marshal and officials from the company that installed the sprinkler system are investigating the malfunction. Peetz said no frozen water pipes were detected.Firefighters responded to Riverwalk about one year ago for a similar problem. In that incident, a sprinkler activated in an elevator shaft and the damage was confined, Peetz said.The latest incident brought 13 firefighters to the scene. In addition to covering vital materials in the businesses, they used giant squeegees and water vacuums to remove water until disaster restoration teams arrived.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.