Cold snap ruptures pipe at Whitefish school

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Whitefish High School students evacuated the school building Wednesday morning after the fire alarm was triggered by a fire sprinkler, which had gone off in the gym foyer.

According to Principal Kerry Drown, cold temperatures caused a sprinkler pipe located in the ceiling to freeze. As temperatures warmed, water thawed, and a sprinkler head was activated.

“It’s a 2-inch pipe of water just flowing nonstop, like a large garden hose on full,” Drown said. “It was going everywhere, in all directions in the span of probably 15 feet. It was a mess.”

After shutting off the water to the sprinkler system, the priority was containing the water, which was close to spilling onto the gym floor that is only a couple of years old.

“Fortunately we had all of our maintenance crew nearby who were able to jump on it as quickly as possible to contain the water in the area,” Drown said. “A sprinkler company came in to switch things out.”

Students were able to go back inside after Whitefish Fire Department gave the OK and the school day resumed on a slightly modified schedule.

“By the time we brought students back in, it was past lunchtime. When students were in their classrooms we got a message out over the PA to everyone at the same time to explain what happened and how we altered the schedule to accommodate lunch,” Drown said.

He believes that water damage will be minimal and limited to the ceiling tiles, which he said is relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.

“Fortunately we have concrete walls and concrete floors, which minimized any damage,” Drown said.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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