What could’ve potentially been a large structure fire Tuesday afternoon at a Petoskey motorcoach resort was averted because of a building’s sprinkler system.
Al Welsheimer, Resort/Bear Creek Fire Department’s fire chief, said a sprinkler system and two heads which were activated saved the clubhouse building at Hearthside Grove Luxury Motorcoach Resort, located north of Petoskey off U.S. 31 at 2075 Cidarpress Dr.
“They have a clubhouse there that’s owned by the members of the membership of the club,” Welsheimer said. “The call came in as a fire in the office and we also received a call from the commercial fire alarm company as their smoke sensors were activated and Kirk Rose (Hearthside Grove Luxury Motorcoach Resort developer) called and said there was a fire in the office with batteries on fire.
“There was a small explosion.”
Welsheimer said Resort/Bear Creek Fire Department received the call at 4:33 p.m. and firefighters were on scene at 4:40 p.m.
“We had the fire out at 5 p.m. and cleared at 5:28 p.m.,” Welsheimer said. “What it was is they had two Segways in an office, which was more like a break room, and the battery packs were on a charger charging and one of the battery packs basically caught on fire. They are a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can be recharged and it basically caught on fire.”
Welsheimer said the important part of the fire was the heat and smoke activated the building’s sprinkler system, and the “sprinkler system basically put the fire out.”
“As far as damage goes, besides obviously water damage, there was very little damage and no damage to the structure of the building,” Welsheimer said. “There was very little damage to the room where the origin of the fire was, just a little bit of charring on the wall and we had to rip some of the wall apart just to make sure there was not extension and some of the ceiling tiles, but the sprinkler system is what activated and saved this building from basically being an hour fire from an all-night fire for us.”
The Ciderpress Club located within Hearthside Grove is an 18,000 square foot Craftsman-style clubhouse which sits on 9.5 acres in the center of the motorcoach’s resort. The building includes a café, outdoor pavilion, game room and movie theater, according to the resort’s website.
“That’s huge,” Welsheimer said of the sprinkler system’s activation in saving the building. “Sprinkler systems take such a bad rap, I think because everybody thinks of the ‘I Love Lucy’ scene where all the sprinkler heads go off and everybody gets wet.”
Welsheimer said the sprinkler system saved tens of thousands of dollars of potential damage had they not been installed and properly working.
“You think of that sprinkler head, it’s sitting there 24/7, 365,” Welsheimer said. “It’s like a little fire guy sitting there with a hose waiting for a fire to go off so he can spray his water. As long as they’re maintained on an annual basis, that’s what they’re supposed to do and this was a textbook example of what the system is supposed to do.”
Welsheimer noted manufacturers of sprinkler systems don’t necessarily sell them as a way to put out a fire as much as they help contain the fire.
“But in certain situations, obviously, it will depending on the size of the fire and what’s burning,” Welsheimer said. “The main goal is to get it to contain the fire to a smaller location and get people out of the building safely if there’s people in the building.”
EMS personnel also responded to the fire, Welsheimer said, to check on Rose and another man who was in the building at the time for smoke ventilation. No serious injuries occurred.
“They were cold because they got wet,” Welsheimer said. “All-in-all it was a very good outcome.
“I think it’s really important to emphasize how important sprinkler systems are,” Welsheimer added. “I know some people have residential sprinkler systems and the install of those have come down a long ways. In this case, they (Hearthside Grove) might have some water damage and have to replace some drywall and the perimeter, but the building is still standing.”
Welsheimer said this is also the time of year where fire departments also begin to respond to more chimney fires.
“We’ve had one so far this year and I know Melrose (Township) had one last Saturday which ended up being a structure fire,” Welsheimer said. “We’re at that time of season where people should be cleaning their chimneys and making sure they’re being inspected and cleaning them on a monthly basis if they’re regularly using them.”