Firefighters battle car fires at Somerset Collection

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 19, 2016

 Several thousand gallons of water leaked in various spots throughout the parking deck due to faulty pipes at Somerset Collection North Dec. 17.

Several thousand gallons of water leaked in various spots throughout the parking deck due to faulty pipes at Somerset Collection North Dec. 17.

Photo provided by the Troy Fire Department

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Firefighters fought two car fires within a 26-hour period on the second tier of a parking deck at Somerset Collection North Dec. 17 and 18, two of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Troy Fire Chief Dave Roberts said the blazes, which occurred just after 2 p.m. Dec. 17 and just after 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18, caused major delays in traffic going into and out of the mall.

Complicating the situation was a leak in Somerset Collection’s standpipe system, which Roberts explained is a series of dry pipes that start at ground level and to which firefighters connect the hoses. The leak caused low water pressure that created problems for firefighters putting out the Dec. 17 fire.

Fire trucks cannot enter the second level of the parking structure, so the standard procedure is for firefighters to connect to the standpipe system and pump water to hose outlets throughout the parking deck.

According to a report, the leak caused several thousand gallons of water to escape at various locations throughout the parking deck. This created icy conditions, so Somerset officials applied salt.

According to a report, the vehicle fire Dec. 17 appears to have started in the engine compartment of a parked, unoccupied vehicle. In the second fire, a woman was driving her vehicle and saw smoke inside the car, coming from the back. She immediately stopped and got out of the car.

Roberts said damage to the second vehicle was mainly in the back seat and trunk.

Damage was mainly confined to vehicles of origin, with minor damage spreading to one other vehicle during the Dec. 17 fire.

During the second fire, since crews by then knew the standpipe system was defective, firefighters used a ladder truck as a standpipe. They connected it to a hydrant for water and raised the aerial ladder to the second level of the parking deck. They then stretched the hose 200 feet to extinguish the blaze that Somerset security officers and Troy police started to put out with fire extinguishers.

Police and fire officials continue to investigate the cause of the two car fires. Roberts said Somerset security officials and Troy police officers kept traffic and pedestrians clear of both fires while firefighters worked.

Somerset Collection was informed that the standpipe systems must be inspected, repaired and tested. The Troy Fire Prevention Division will follow up to ensure the system is restored.

A representative for Somerset could not be reached for comment.

Roberts said the parking deck is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system, but the fires were not initially large enough to activate the sprinklers.

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