Firefighters ‘were like supermen,’ says grateful Morristown librarian after burst sprinkler

A burst sprinkler head turned the Morristown & Township Library  into a soggy mess on Wednesday. But it could have been worse.

“The firefighters were like supermen,” said Chad Leinaweaver, the library’s assistant director. “Their efforts are why we didn’t lose any of the collection. And the police, too.”

The Morristown Fire Department responds to report of a burst pipe at the Morristown & Township Library. The noontime temperature outside was 14 degrees. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Morristown Fire Department responds to report of a burst pipe at the Morristown & Township Library. The noontime temperature outside was 14 degrees. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Armed with water-vacuums and gung-ho urgency, firemen from Morristown and Morris Township kept water from spreading beyond the 2006 section of the building, Chad said.

Patrons were evacuated. Staff members were allowed to remain. The only injuries were to a couple of employees’ coats in a closet, said library Director Maria Norton.

A sprinkler head burst inside a second-floor electrical closet, near the children’s book section, sending copious amounts of water through the first floor into a basement meeting room around 10:50 am, according to firefighters.

“There was a lot of water. Which is good. If there was a fire you would want a lot of water,” said Maria. “But it’s not so good when a pipe bursts.”

The library will stay closed on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2014, to assess the damage, the director said.

Carpets were soaked on the first floor–where an inch or so of water pooled– and an area measuring about 30 feet-by-50-feet on the second floor also was drenched, said Deputy Chief Jon Prachthauser.

When it was clear nobody was in danger, firefighters shifted into damage control mode.

“Our primary concern was to make sure no library materials got wet,” said the deputy chief.  Fortunately, he said, tables, not books, bore the brunt of the deluge.

The extreme cold weather is the likely culprit for the burst sprinkler head, said Fire Chief Bob Flanagan, “but we’ll probably never know for sure.”

Acting Fire Chief Jon Prachthauser said firefighters wrapped up at the courthouse just before 2 pm--about five hours after responding to reports of a smoky odor. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morristown Deputy Fire Chief Jon Prachthauser, in a file photo. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

An electrician will make sure there is no danger from wet wiring, said Deputy Chief Prachthauser.

Chad said he is keeping his fingers crossed that a new high-definition projection system in the basement was not damaged.

“The firemen were great,” Maria echoed. “They were here in a minute.”

Some ceiling tiles will need replacing, she said. Beyond that, it’s not yet clear what repairs are needed or how much they will cost. The Morris County Library and the Mount Olive library also have sustained damage from burst pipes in recent days, Maria said.

But as library crises go, Morristown’s appears to be minor.  The place was closed for long periods after explosions in 1994 and 2010.

And who knows?  If the Polar Vortex hangs around a little longer, and librarians leave the doors open, maybe they can introduce ice skating inside the library.



Comments

  1. Curious Reader says:

    In a room full of books, why not use a non-water based, and human friendly, fire suppressant system like FM-200?

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