Sprinklers may have saved the building
If David Ray could have his cake and eat it, too, all buildings along Broad, Pine, Commercial and Spring streets in Nevada City’s historical district would have fire sprinkler systems.
The old Elks Lodge building at the corner of North Pine and Commercial streets, which burned in an early morning fire March 20, would have been saved if it had fire sprinklers, said Ray, the city’s fire marshal and other officials this week.
“A sprinkler could have put that fire out,” Ray said. “That fire grew for quite some time before it was detected.”
The building housed Friar Tuck’s Restaurant & Bar, Off Broadstreet theater, the Nevada County Probation Department and Victim/Witness Program, and the Herb Shop, which included a record store and deli.
Sprinklers were not required in the building in part because it was historic, officials said.
For a host of reasons, most buildings in the historical district area do not have fire sprinklers. Many historic buildings in Grass Valley, including those on Mill Street from East Main to the Del Oro Theatre, also lack sprinklers.
City records show Nevada City buildings with a sprinkler system include the National Hotel and City Hall on Broad Street, the Old Brewery Building on Nevada Street, Nevada City Elementary School on Main Street and the new home of Nevada City Carriage Co. on Uren Street.
“I will, at this point in time, be exploring other sprinkler system ordinances relating to historic or (older) buildings and present that to the City Council,” Ray said. The council could require businesses that meet certain criteria be outfitted with sprinklers, he said.
Mayor Kerry Arnett on Friday said he would be open to arguments for or against a fire sprinkler proposal.
A Nevada City ordinance requires that new buildings 5,000 square feet or more be equipped with fire sprinkler systems. But buildings can be exempt under many criteria under state building and fire codes.
How effective are fire sprinklers?
They do put out fires, fire officials interviewed this week for this story said without hesitation.
“It’s like having a fireman there 24 hours a day,” said Vern Canon, fire marshal for the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District. “A little water damage, you mop that up, and you’re in business the next day,” he said.
It is a myth that fire sprinklers do extensive water damage, Canon said. Fire sprinklers do not go on all at once and only put out 15 to 25 gallons of water per minute, Canon said. Firefighters use 1,000 gallons of water per minute, he added.
Dennis Cassella, the county’s director of general an–d emergency services, said installing sprinkler systems in older buildings, including the County Superior Courthouse or the veterans buildings in Nevada City and Grass Valley, would be tremendously expensive.
To put in pipes and sprinkler heads would require removal of the ceiling and walls, he said.
Ellen Davis, executive director of Miners Foundry Cultural Center, said her nonprofit organization has been asked to install fire sprinklers.
The center has applied for a $90,000 state grant to pay for them, she said.
In Old Sacramento, the vast majority of buildings have sprinklers, said Capt. Dave Whitt, spokesman for the Sacramento Fire Department.
Sprinklers stop fire at its earliest stage, he said. “They do a wonderful job.”
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