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Waukesha Fire: Weather to blame for burst sprinkler system at strip mall

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 19:37:12-05

A swift change in the weather earlier this week is to blame after burst pipes flood a Waukesha strip mall on East Sunset Drive.

As dangerously cold temperatures climbed into the 30s and 40s Sunday, a sprinkler system burst inside the strip mall affecting all six business tenants.

Closed signs can be found on each door at the strip mall after all of its sprinklers gave way Sunday night.

"Getting that phone call, it’s still deer in the headlights, you’re trying to figure out the first things we need to do," said Wisconsin Vision CEO Darren Horndasch.

Horndasch rushed to the Wisconsin Vision eye-care boutique to find water pouring from the ceiling sprinklers.

"Water was running in, ceiling tiles were tumbling down and we had no power, it was pitch black," he said.

Waukesha firefighters quickly responded to the scene.

"There was a significant amount of water that was coming out of the front doors of the building when our crews arrived," said Waukesha Fire Marshal Brian Charlesworth.

Charlesworth said crews soon realized the sprinkler system burst.

"As the temperatures warmed up a little bit from the freezing cold, the part that was frozen thawed out and water started flowing out of the broken sprinkler pipe," he said.

It's a problem that isn’t uncommon this time of year at apartments and commercial buildings. Charlesworth said the sprinkler system’s pipes here were treated with antifreeze, but even that didn’t hold up.

"The most important thing, if you have a fire protection system in your building, a fire sprinkler system, make sure every year in the fall that you get an annual service that’s required by a licensed sprinkler contractor," he said.

For this week customers of the strip mall will have to wait as renovation crews clean up with damage. Business owners plan to reopen on Monday. While there isn't an official damage estimate at this point, Charlesworth said it is substantial.