Fire suppression system the cause, again
By Cayla Vidmar
The 44-unit Timbers Condominium complex in Mt. Crested Butte flooded early on Sunday morning, affecting numerous locals, renters, and those living in the seven deed-restricted units on the first floor. This is the third time flooding has caused problems at this site, and the cause appears to be, once again, the fire suppression system.
The exact number of people affected was unknown according to management company Toad Property Management, but no residents are currently allowed in the building.
One condo owner, Laura Cass, said, “I am extremely concerned with the degree of damage to the building and the number of times there have been water issues in this location. My biggest worry at the moment is where the residents are going to find housing for the duration of the reconstruction process, while we head into the busiest time of year.”
According to Carlos Velado, community development director for Mt. Crested Butte, “There was a major water leak from the fire suppression system … in the ceiling on the second floor hallway. It appears that an elbow in a sprinkler line separated, causing the leak.”
Ric Ems, fire marshal for the Crested Butte Fire Protection District, said that in this case, “The cause is still under investigation, there’s no criminal intent. We feel it’s accidental in nature.”
News of the leak came as a surprise to many who remember the first incident, only four years ago. According to a February 2014 article in the Crested Butte News, the building, which was formerly the 32-unit Marcellina Apartments, flooded after the fire suppression system was triggered and caused significant water damage to a majority of the units.
According to the article, that incident was caused when a sub-contractor accidently broke a fire sprinkler line. The incident displaced all the tenants in the building in the middle of the ski season, and ultimately resulted in the building being condemned.
The second flooding incident occurred in January 2017, when “a sprinkler pipe froze, again causing significant damage,” writes Velado.
While it may feel like this has happened a lot at the building, Ems noted, “The fire suppression systems get tested and certified each year. The sprinkler contractors go in and tag the system each year, so there is an inspection program on the system.” In addition, “Every phase of the construction process has to be inspected, and they do pressure checks on the fire suppression system when it goes in.”
Currently, all tenants have vacated the property. “The fire alarm and fire suppression systems are compromised at this time, so the entire building has to be vacated until further notice while crews work to repair the damages,” writes Velado. “The next steps are to assess the damage, dry out the building, fix and test the safety systems, repair the damaged units and common areas, and try to get people back in their homes.”
Officials hope to get people back in the building soon. According to Rob Harper, owner of Toad Property Management, “I would like to see within the next two weeks that we have people who can be back in the building, back in their homes, and the building functioning. It’s not currently functional. If we can get systems up and running and safe, we will get people in there as soon as we can.”
Harper has dealt with all three floods in the building. “I was there on Sunday at 4:30 a.m. and it makes your stomach hurt. It makes me sick thinking about what we’re about to go through, and what those people are about to go through. It’s very sad for all of us to deal with,” says Harper.
The process to repair the damage is already under way, but the alarm system is the biggest hold-up, according to Harper, who stated they had to order new panels for the system. Ems said, “Timing for repair is all based on how quickly they can get it dried out, and find contractors to do the work. They have to get it dried out as soon as possible, and have every stage of reconstruction inspected.”
Harper stresses that everyone is working hard to remedy the incident, stating, “I’m trying to set the expectation that this is a long process and that people are working incredibly hard to fix this.” Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick echoed that sentiment, stating, “We’re trying to help them go as fast as they can, but we have to follow strict building and fire inspection codes.”