Burst sprinkler pipe floods Tisbury galleries


A pipe in a fire suppression sprinkler system at 54 Main Street burst on the evening of January 2, flooding the Simon Gallery and Louisa Gould Gallery on the first floor with a few inches of water. Both galleries are closed this week for cleanup and restoration by Disaster Specialists, based in Sandwich.

Building manager Paul Cotton said in a phone call Tuesday, “We had something burst in a sprinkler fitting – it was cold the night before – and by the next day it thawed, and the pipe let go.”

The pipe that burst is located about four feet off the ground in a hallway that leads to upstairs apartments, nearest to the gallery owned by Peter Simon. Water flowing from the sprinkler system ran down and under the floors of both galleries, Mr. Cotton said, triggering the building’s alarm.

Tisbury assistant fire chief James Rogers said he and assistant fire chief Russell Maciel responded to the call with fire police officer Jeff Corr and two engine company personnel. Tisbury police officers also responded and were very helpful, he added.

It took about 45 minutes for the fire department personnel to shut off the sprinkler system, Mr. Rogers said. Because the sprinkler system had filled with water and the burst pipe was at the lowest point, Mr. Rogers said, there was a lot of water that drained back out again. The firefighters stretched a hose to try to direct the flow of water away from the galleries, he said.

Mr. Rogers said the building’s sprinkler system is a “dry” system, which is usually filled with air until a fire triggers it and water rushes in.

“He [Mr. Cotton] discovered a small crack and tried to fix it with some type of means, tape or something, and called the sprinkler company, and there was actually air leaking out of it at that time,” Mr. Rogers said. “Once the water got into it, there was too much pressure, and it burst all over the place.” It is not clear when the attempted repair was made.

“If there’s one thing of public interest in here that I tried to explain to Mr. Cotton, is any time, especially in a multi-occupancy building like that, if there’s an issue with a fire protection system, it’s law that you have to notify the fire department that there’s a problem with that system, and that was never done until we actually had the call,” Mr. Rogers said. “We may have been able to take some intervening action that prevented that from happening, had we known about it.”

Mr. Cotton said the sprinkler system is inspected every quarter and that the company does a complete report of the whole system. “It was inspected in September and December – everything was done up to code,” he said.

There will be an insurance investigation, Mr. Cotton added. In the meantime, he said, he hopes that repairs will be made and floors replaced so that the galleries will be up and running again in the next four to six weeks.

“We got on it right away,” Mr. Cotton said. “Considering what happened, we did the best we could with a bad situation.”

Mr. Simon and Ms. Gould said they were not notified by Mr. Cotton but did receive calls from friends on Friday night, alerting them about the fire alarm going off in their building. Mr. Simon said he arrived at his gallery to find several inches of water, which damaged some posters and other merchandise set on the floor, as well as the floor itself, baseboards, and cabinets.

Ms. Gould said building owner Larry Levine subsequently called her from Las Vegas to say her side of the building was not affected. However, she and her husband rushed down to check on her gallery anyway. Finding the floor covered in water, they were able to clear things out and move the artwork for storage at the Lilly Pulitzer store next door.

“This is my third floor since I’ve been in that building,” Ms. Gould said. A few weeks after her gallery opened there in June 2007, she had to close for repairs after a fire in an upstairs apartment triggered the automatic sprinkler system and flooded her space.

Last winter, the replacement floor popped up, and Ms. Gould had to close her gallery down from January 7 to May 3 while it was redone.

“I feel it’s important to be open year-round for the community, and I had planned on being open,” Ms. Gould said in a phone call Monday. “I have a current show that opened on Dec. 27 and was going to go through February. My next show is scheduled for Valentine’s Day weekend, and I’m hoping for that.”

Mr. Simon said he also had planned to stay open three to four days a week through Valentine’s Day and to hold a big sale that weekend before closing for a few months. “I really love being part of Main Street. The gallery has done really well,” Mr. Simon said, adding, “I would love to see those buildings receive more tender loving care.”