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Dave Olson, Published December 16 2008

Repair service fixes flood of leaks

Some of the kick from Sunday’s blizzard wasn’t felt until Monday morning.

That’s when sprinkler systems that businesses and other buildings depend on for fire protection began popping all over the Fargo-Moorhead area.

“We’ve had a lot – a lot – of action today. Probably the best in all my years,” said Mike Stebner, vice president of Nova Fire Protection, which repairs sprinkler systems.

The company has four offices in North Dakota and all have been busy.

“We’ve been going 24 hours (a day) since Saturday night,” said Stebner, adding that about 27 businesses across North Dakota suffered problems.

The company took about 15 calls in the Fargo-Moorhead area Monday morning.

Problems tend to crop up during the first intense cold snap of the winter, according to local fire officials.

When temperatures fall and winds pick up, water pipes located near outside walls or entryways are the most susceptible to freezing. When the winds drop and the temperatures inside a building rise, sprinkler heads damaged by ice can burst.

People are often surprised how deeply a cold wind can penetrate a building, Stebner said.

“You get a 45-mph wind, it will blow open eaves,” he said.

In some cases, the cleanup after a leak is minimal.

That was the situation at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead, where a sprinkler leak flooded the building’s entryway Monday morning.

The Moorhead Fire Department used squeegees to push out the water, which had reached to the school’s reception desk, said firefighter Benton Hicks.

The story was different at Fargo’s Hobby Lobby, where water soaked an office area and forced the business to close shortly after it opened Monday morning.

“All you can do is kind of laugh, so you don’t get too frustrated,” said store manager Dave Craft, who said the business plans to reopen today if it can get its computer working.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555