Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Beau Finley

“Dear PoPville,

I’m on the Condo Board for a small multi-unit building in DC – and we’re having a crisis with our fire suppression (sprinkler) system and the contractor who conducts the routine inspections of that system that are required by the DC Fire Code. I was wondering if any other readers have had similar experiences and/or could offer any advice.

Earlier this week, one of the contractor’s technicians was in the room housing the sprinkler system (fire) pump motor while conducting the quarterly inspection of our sprinkler system. Somehow, the pump motor caught on fire and was irreparably damaged. The technician claims that the motor spontaneously caught fire while his back was turned – and that he did nothing to precipitate the fire. Now, we have to purchase a new motor (at great expense) and while we’re waiting for delivery/installation (6+ days) – we have to pay over $2000 a day to another contractor to provide multiple 24/7 “fire watch” personnel for our building (as required by the DC Fire Code).

It defies logic and probability that a normally very reliable pump motor would just spontaneously fail and burn while a technician was inspecting the system AND that the technician did nothing to cause the fire. Another contractor took a quick look at the damaged motor and they were not able to determine an obvious cause of the fire. This incident is going to devastate our Condo Association’s budget; we need to figure out how to pass these costs to the responsible party. We have insurance (obviously) but we’re still left with the significant fire watch costs and a steep deductible.

Any ideas?”


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