This brief panorama is courtesy of your average fire inspector.

Photo 1


Last month, I presented Part 1 of  this photo essay that showcases some of the most incredible things I’ve seen. Pictures clearly tell the story of incredible things one finds during sprinkler system inspections.

Photo 2

Here’s one that “baffled” me for a long time. During a renovation, this configuration (Photo 1) was discovered behind a plumbing wall featuring a 286-degree upright sprinkler (formerly concealed) at an elevation of roughly two feet off the floor. For months I had no idea what its function could be, until I ran into an installer who relayed a story to me in which his crew had to finish up a job in a hurry and ran short of 1/2” plugs. Guess what they used instead? Leftover sprinkler heads - and it was also in a concealed space obscured from view. That might work in a pinch, but it doesn’t exactly qualify as a “mint” job. We in the business call those things “time bombs.”

Photo 3

Once upon a time, the Chinese would scatter firecrackers in various places around their homes - utilizing them in this fashion as fire alarms. Maybe they heard that Frank Sinatra song, “I Did It My Way.” But far be it from Yankee ingenuity to take a back seat to the wisdom of the Chinese. I actually saw these “hose-stations” (Photos 2  and 3) while wandering through an older home during an estate sale. A 75-year old woman who was confined to a wheelchair 80% of her time actually installed these herself, including the plumbing. She had one in each of the first- and second-floor hallways of her modest home. I guess if you don’t have residential fire sprinklers, these hose stations are the next best thing. I hope it didn’t have to pass an inspector’s NFPA 14 pressure test.

Photo 4

This reminded me of the guy in Iowa who had installed fire sprinklers himself, all per NFPA 13D, in the basement of his new home. Upon seeing this, the local AHJ demanded that he was then required to protect the entire house with sprinklers or else tear out what he had installed in his basement. After a lengthy fight with city hall, he was allowed to leave the basement sprinklers in, since that town had no residential sprinkler ordinance in force.

Photo 5

Here’s a nifty picture (Photo 4), taken in a city that requires both Storz and standard fire department connections for all new installations. The first thing I noticed about the picture is that the post-indicator valve of this little trifecta should really be placed (per NFPA 24) at least 40 feet from the exterior building wall. But what came up first on the punchlist (see Sketch 1) was this: where does the water go if the fire department pumps into the 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" x 4" fire department connection? The way this piping is configured, that water is going to be leaking right out the Storz connection, far away from the fire.

Photo 6

The Chicago White Sox play at U.S. Cellular Field (Photo 5), a facility that was built in 1991 - with a fire pump and complete fire sprinkler protection. To my knowledge, this is something you won’t see in any major league ballpark.  In Photo 6 you’ll notice (inside the dugout, just above the bullpen phones) pipe supplying horizontal sidewall sprinklers. This may seem a bit over the top, as I have never heard of a fire outbreak in a stadium dugout. But I have heard of line drives being fouled off inside the dugouts and if this ever happens, that headguard may not afford much protection against a 100 mph line drive. If you ever see some pretty wet ballplayers on the news, you’ll know what happened. 

Many of the pictures (and the related descriptions) I’ve presented the past two columns might have caught you by surprise, but don’t take my word for it. You can bet that there are a hundred more sights out in the field that you’ve never seen before. Sights that are incredible enough to make you do a double-take.