Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fire marshal may ask third party to examine water supply to business park

The Waxie Sanitary Supply warehouse at 3839 American Way, which burned early Friday. With water from a private well, the hydrant in front did not have adequate pressure and ran dry after 15 minutes.
While investigators zero in on what caused a fire last week that destroyed a cleaning supply warehouse south of Idaho Falls, Fire Marshal Ken Anderson said he may ask a third party to check into the water supply at the business park where the warehouse burned.

Firefighters were called to the scene early Friday after Bonneville County Sheriff's deputies responded to a burglar alarm. When they arrived, they found the water pressure from the hydrant in front of Waxie Sanitary Supply, 3839 American Way, incapable of supplying enough water to fight the blaze, running dry after 15 minutes. The next nearest hydrant also was inadequate, and it wasn't until they found one 500 feet away, near the Staples warehouse (which has its own water supply and pump), that they were able to get the blaze under control. By then, the fire had consumed the warehouse's storage area. A firewall in the building kept the office from being destroyed, Anderson said.

The Sunnyside Business Park is not inside Idaho Falls city limits and is not on the city's water system. Anderson said the hydrant in front of the Waxie warehouse appeared to be connected to a domestic well capable of pumping around 500 gallons per minute. Under the current state fire code, a warehouse the size of Waxie’s, roughly 4,000 square feet, would require 1,700 gallons per minute for two hours, he said.

“The insurance company could say, ‘If we’re going to rebuild this building it has to have an adequate water supply,” Anderson said. Likewise, insurance carriers may want to examine whether they are giving property owners in the park discounts based on the belief that the fire protection is greater than it actually is.

Under the agreement between the Idaho Falls Fire Department and Bonneville County Fire Protection District No. 1, the city fire marshal conducts investigations in both jurisdictions.

Though the city of Idaho Falls requires sprinkler systems for commercial buildings, Anderson said the state and county do not require buildings like the Waxie warehouse to have one. “You have to have x amount of stuff in a fire area before the code says you have to have a sprinkler system,” he said.

Nevertheless, without a sprinkler system and with inadequate water from the private hydrant, fighting the fire was harder. "If we're going to do our job, we have to have water and a way to get it there," Anderson said.

The loss has been estimated at more than $1 million.