Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2001

Sprinkler credited with saving business

JUNEAU - The sprinkler and alarm system at Don Abel Building Supply kept what could have been a major fire Saturday to a minor incident.

"The sprinklers did definitely save the building. It could have been the same result as the Valley Lumber otherwise," said Auke Bay/ Lynn Canal Fire Chief John George Sr., referring to a fire that burnt Valley Sentry Lumber & Hardware to the ground five years ago.

George said the fire probably started in a trash can in a paint storage room when rags used to clean up some highly combustible substances ignited spontaneously. The fire spread to a shelf of paints in the room. When the ceiling temperature reached 180 degrees it triggered the sprinkler and alarm system.

The alarm came to the fire department at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene five minutes later, the sprinkler system had contained the fire.

"There was light smoke and water on the floor," George said.

All that was left for the firefighters to put out was a 12-inch flame on the shelf, George said. Without the sprinklers, the fire would have grown exponentially in those five minutes, fueled by volatile cans of accelerants, George said.

Instead, the fire itself did less than $1,000 damage. Except for labels warped by water, the paint cans were fine. The lumber store opened as usual on Saturday morning.

"I'm thrilled with how that sprinkler worked," said Bruce Abel, president and CEO of Don Abel Building Supply. "In fact, if we didn't have that sprinkler system we wouldn't have a building. It did its job perfectly."

The sprinkler was put in when the building was built in 1979 and Abel said the business got a significant reduction in insurance for installing it.

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