Nursing home sprinkler not working during fatal blaze, lawyers for victims contend

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at the the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester, Pa., Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at the the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester, Pa., Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

The four elderly residents of a Chester County nursing home who died in a fire last November may have been victims of negligence, according to attorneys for their families. The lawyers contend the facility’s sprinklers were shut off at the time of the fire.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives has not yet completed its investigation of the Nov. 16 blaze.

A month after the fire, attorneys for the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester and the families of the deceased were briefed at the site by fire inspection engineers. There, they were told by Dan Arnold of Atlanta-based Seneca Fire Engineering that there was no water in the sprinkler system at the time of the fire, according to an attorney who attended the briefing.

“He was told by the ATF they were the first ones into the mechanical room, which houses the valving and piping for the fire suppression system,” said Samuel Dordick of the Philadelphia law firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett and Bendesky. “He was told the ATF found the valve that controls the entire water system was in the closed and off position.”

Dordick said Arnold told him that a tamper switch, which would have triggered an alarm if the water valve were shut off, was malfunctioning.

A full report of the ATF’s investigation is expected in a few weeks. A spokeswoman would not comment while the investigation is ongoing.

The revelations, if true, will be a cornerstone of suit the Mongeluzzi firm has filed against Barclay Friends and Tyco SimplexGrinnell, the manufacturer of the sprinkler system.

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