Sprinklers may have contained, put out fire

Jessica Sasseen

A sprinkler system may have contained and extinguished a fire in Poland Hall early Sunday morning that injured a freshman resident.

When the fire started, the sprinkler system activated because of heat in the room, said Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life.

“It did what it was supposed to do,” he said. “The sprinkler only went off in the room affected, contrary to what’s on the movies, where if one goes off they all go off.”

The sprinkler system in Poland was installed in the summer of 2002.

Walter Jordan, assistant chief for the Bowling Green Fire Department, said sprinklers may have reduced the severity of the fire.

“They are very important,” Jordan said “They are very effective and will contain the fire or put it out. The damage without a sprinkler system is much greater.”

Jordan said the sprinkler heads are set to go off at a certain temperature. The head contains a piece of metal that melts when heated and releases water.

“We made a commitment after the Murray fire to sprinkler every building,” Kuster said, “and will have that done by next fall.”

A law named after Michael Minger, a Murray State student killed in a dorm fire in September 1998, was created to provide more security for Kentucky college students from dorm fires.

Many Kentucky schools re-evaluated their sprinkler systems after the Murray State fire.

In 1998, only four of Western’s 18 residence halls had sprinklers throughout the building, according to an Associated Press story. The remaining buildings had sprinklers in places fires were more likely to happen, such as trash chutes.

Kuster said Keen Hall is the only dorm without a sprinkler system, but one will be installed this summer.

The Michael Minger Act, passed by the state legislature in July 2002, requires campus police to keep a crime log for daily public viewing, issue a yearly report to the Council on Postsecondary Education and report fires to the state fire marshal’s office immediately.

Failure to do this could result in up to a $1,500 fine against the individual who didn’t report the fire to proper authorities, 30 days in county jail or both.

Sprinklers may have protected students in Poland, but there will still be waterlogged belongings for some residents.

There was water damage to ceiling tiles on the first floor in the director’s apartment. Some personal property in that room may have also been damaged.

Kuster could not comment yesterday afternoon on damage to the second floor, where the fire broke out, because Housing and Residence Life had not gotten into the area because of the ongoing police investigation.

“There may be water on the second floor, in the hall or under people’s doors, but we just don’t know yet,” Kuster said.

Total damage to the building had not been determined, Kuster said.

He said repairing the building should be inexpensive. Housing and Residence Life will not pick up the tab for personal property damaged in the fire and is not liable for the damage.

Kuster said students who have property damaged either have to file an insurance claim with their personal insurance provider or pay to replace the items themselves.

The sprinkler in the room will be replaced as soon as Housing and Residence Life is allowed back in the room. Students, except those living on the second floor, were allowed in the building at about 8:30 last night.

Reach Jessica Sasseen at [email protected]