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Sprinkler saves day

A humidifier started on fire Saturday in the corner of a guitar classroom at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical. (Republican Eagle photo by John R. Russett)

A humidifier unit in one of the guitar building classrooms at Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical – originally installed to protect the condition of the wood – overheated and started on fire early Saturday morning resulting in water damage to some equipment and supplies in the room.

Red Wing Fire Department received the alarm call at 12:07 a.m. and firefighters and paramedics were on scene within seven minutes, according to a release from Fire Capt. Jim Eppen. They found the fire had been extinguished by the automatic sprinkler system, Eppen said.

Only one of the sprinklers in the room went off and the system worked just as it should, said Michael Kroening, vice president of finance and administration for Southeast Technical, who is in charge of facilities management.

“It was the one sprinkler head straight over the unit and then water just hit the floors and had to go to a drain, so everything it ran across we just had to pick up and dry off,” he said, adding the damage is estimated at under $3,000 and was all supplies.

Some ceiling tiles surrounding the sprinkler head will have to be replaced, but there was no structural damage and the humidifier unit will not be replaced, Kroening said.

“We’ll decide how we’re going to humidify that area. We think we can handle it with our own ventilation so we’re going to try that,” said Jim Johnson, college president.

With students just a few weeks away from finishing their guitars, the damage could have been much worse, Johnson said.

“We were actually just lucky, and fortunate, that it didn’t set off the other sprinklers,” he said.

Johnson said the fire department’s quick response helped immensely in minimizing the damage. Firefighters shut off the water to that area of the building.

Johnson said staff met with students at 8 a.m. Monday and they were in the classroom cleaning up and assessing damage to their projects by 8:30.

One student’s project was probably lost, Johnson said, but with some help from the instructors the person should be able to get everything back and built before the semester ends.

Some wood for the students’ guitars, which can come from all over the world, will have to be replaced, Johnson said.

Johnson said the dollar amount probably won’t hit the deductible for the insurance so the college will pay for the replacement of any supplies lost.

One fire engine, one ladder truck and one ambulance responded and seven full-time firefighters were on scene for approximately 45 minutes, Eppen said.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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