Sprinklers flood La Paz rooms

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Thirteen rooms in LaPaz Residence Hall were damaged after a resident hung a jacket from a fire sprinkler, causing it to activate, police reports said.

Allyson E. Rose planned to let her jacket dry when she hung it on the device Monday evening, but instead, it and everything else in the room was soaked.

University police responded to the hall at 602 N. Highland Ave. and found that the sprinkler in a second floor room had activated at 5:15 p.m., setting off the fire alarm.

The Tucson Fire Department arrived at 5:33 p.m. to shut off the flow to the sprinkler, spokesman Randy Ogden said.

Power to the affected areas had to be shut off while crews cleared out two inches of standing water, and residents of the residence hall were forced to wait outside until the situation was cleared at 6:30 p.m., Holland said. Residents of rooms on the flooded wing were forced to wait longer.

Between 10 and 11 student rooms were reported to be affected by the flooding, Holland said. The water also soaked through the floor and damaged the ceiling, walls and furniture in a study lounge and meeting room on the first floor. The affected rooms are located on the northwest side of the building, near the front entrance.

All of the appliances in the room were destroyed and papers and books that were in the room were completely damaged, according to Rose's roommate.

"Everything is wet and really dirty," she said.

The roommate, who was not home when the sprinkler went off, said she and Rose are staying in other rooms at the hall for "a couple days" until the room can be dried out. Holland said neighboring rooms only suffered water damage to the carpet and those residents were able to sleep in their rooms Monday night.

Maintenance crews are trying to dry out the carpet soon enough to prevent mold and mildew from growing, Holland said. If they are successful, the carpet will not have to be replaced, keeping damage costs low. According to Holland, furniture on the first floor was also damaged, and several ceiling tiles will need to be replaced.

A spokesman for the Department of Residence Life said the department will not be able to estimate the cost of the damage until the carpet dries out.

Holland said state insurance will cover university property that was damaged in the flooding, but personal belongings are not insured. Although a claim can be filed if the university was negligent, the damage was caused by the actions of a resident, Holland said. Residents whose belongings were damaged could use their own insurance or could make arrangements with Rose, he said. State insurance adjustors may also look at the loss to determine if Rose can be held responsible for the state's damages.

Rose's roommate said her parents are dealing with the cost of the damages.

Rose could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Holland said the sprinkler activated because the device must have broken when Rose hung the coat hanger on the sprinkler head. The heads normally activate when high temperatures cause a glass ampule in the device to burst, releasing a flow of water.

"The ampules are also apparently fairly fragile," Holland said. "But if there was a fire in the room, (the sprinkler head) would have sprayed very well," he said.

"The biggest message I can send is you can not hang anything on sprinkler heads anywhere," Holland said, citing fire code.

While Rose was not cited for the incident, she may be held accountable by Residence Life for violating policies which prohibit hanging items from the fire sprinklers.

Accidental sprinkler activations have occurred occasionally, Holland said. Within the last few years, sprinklers at Manzanita-Mohave Hall, 1000 N. Park Ave., have activated, most notably while residents were playing football in the hallway.

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