Fire sprinkler flooding destroys artwork at Dixie State

ST. GEORGE — Wednesday morning a flood at Dixie State University damaged art, computers, supplies and the building itself after plumbing in the ceiling broke and caused a fire sprinkler to spray water on the floor which collected on the ground and spread inches of water throughout the building.

The water started flowing just before 7 a.m. and sprayed down directly onto student and faculty members’ art in classroom 101 of the North Plaza building on DSU’s campus. Many paintings and drawings that were displayed in the classroom on shelves, easels, and walls were ruined.

The water didn’t stop there. It ran for approximately 30 minutes in the empty building collecting between 2-6 inches of water on the floor, DSU Director of Public Relations Steve Johnson said. The water flowed throughout classroom 101, a drawing and painting classroom, and dispersed into two separate hallways, the computer lab, and several professors’ offices.

Besides art damaged in the classroom, there also appeared to be substantial personal art damaged in the offices of Professor’s Dennis Martinez and Glenn Blakley. There was also computer equipment in the computer lab that was damaged by water.

Professor Martinez was seen in his office cleaning out damaged possessions with the help of DSU staff. Martinez said that roughly $1,000 of art history slides that were in a box on his office floor were completely ruined among other things such as paintings that were on the floor.

Up to 6 computers got wet and were being air dried by staff. Cords, and computer components that were on the ground in the computer lab were all unplugged and air dried as well. Ceiling panels near the sprinkler head were damaged; paint up and down the walls had bubbled from water damage, and floor panels throughout much of the building were damaged and being removed.

No one was on scene when the sprinkler started to spray, Director of Campus Services Sherry Ruesch, said. The custodian typically leaves at about 5:30 in the morning, she said.

A fire alarm inside the building initially notified the St. George Fire Department, whose members were the first on scene, Johnson said.

Quickly thereafter, staff from the University’s custodial department and heating plant department arrived and helped the Fire Department turn off the water. With help from AAA Flood Disaster and Service Master Restore, the staff members removed the standing water from the building, and worked tirelessly to clean up the mess throughout the day.

All university property is insured by the State of Utah, Johnson said, but personal property is not. The university will file a claim with the state, and a claims adjuster will decide which property is insured.

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  • Joanna July 31, 2014 at 8:43 am

    What a mess, and what a shame!

  • Dgkasmauskas August 1, 2014 at 7:25 am

    If the “plumbing broke” how did water discharge from a fire sprinkler?

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