A malfunction in the fire suppression system in the Switzerland County Courthouse led to a large amount of water flowing down through all three stories of the building early Monday morning.
County Courthouse Maintenance Man Wesley Poling said that at approximately 1:15 a.m., the Switzerland County jail received an alarm that there was a problem with the sprinkler system in the breezeway area of the second floor that connects the courtroom to the Judge’s chambers and the Prosecutor’s Office and Probation Office. Switzerland County Dispatch then called the Jeff-Craig Volunteer Fire Department, and also Poling – who was the first county employee at the scene. When he arrived, Jeff-Craig was already on the scene and had shut the water off.
Commissioners Assistant Bruce Williams said that a pipe burst in the sprinkler system, which caused the system to activate.
Poling said that it is a ‘dry system’, in which the pipes are filled with air, and when the air goes out of the pipe, water follows behind the air and puts out the fire – except in this case there was no fire. Poling said that he believes that the situation was caused by a malfunction in the pipe, because it wasn’t cold enough inside the Courthouse to cause the pipe to freeze and burst. Poling said that officials from the sprinkler system were to be on the scene sometime on Wednesday afternoon; and representatives from the elevator company were also expected at the scene on Wednesday to check that system for any potential damage from the water.
Williams said that the water flowed from the second floor all the way down to both basements. He said that the water got into the Judge’s room, the Recorder’s Office, and downstairs in old section of the courthouse, among other places. He said that the Commissioners requested that American Restoration come to the courthouse and begin cleanup operations; and that started at approximately early Wednesday morning. Poling said that American Restoration was on site at approximately 4:30 a.m.
“I don’t think the water ran for very long, because once the alarm went off and the phone call was made to the fire department, that’s all it was on,” Poling said. “No one can be sure how long the water ran, but it was a lot of water in a short amount of time.”
On Wednesday morning, Poling said that workers were just trying to get the water dried up before any repairs can be made or damage assessed.
The Courthouse will be closed to the public until further notice.