Thousands of Washington Homes Threatened by Faulty Fire Sprinklers

July 11, 2007

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are warning Washington apartment homes and hotels that their fire sprinkler systems may be defective.

The Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office says up to 500,000 fire sprinkler heads in Washington may be defective – and officials don’t know where they are located.

“Somewhere in our state, there are 500,000 sprinkler heads that may fail in an actual fire,” said Assistant State Fire Marshal Anjela Foster. “We think they are in hotels, apartments and homes. It’s a serious threat to homes and occupants.

“What’s more, property owners have only a short time to fill out the paperwork needed to receive free replacement sprinkler heads. Those who miss the deadline will pay big bucks to do the work themselves,” Foster said.

Central Sprinkler Co., an affiliate of Tyco Fire Products, began a voluntary replacement program in July 2001 to replace 35 million “O-ring” style heads nationwide at no cost to property owners. The program ends on Aug. 31, 2007, under an agreement between Tyco and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Meanwhile, about 500,000 of the 1.3 million sprinkler heads that were installed in Washington schools, hotels, apartments, homes and commercial buildings remain unaccounted for.

If property owners fail to take advantage of the program, they will be required by law to replace the sprinkler heads at an estimated cost of $50 per device to $75 per device. Since many residences have multiple sprinklers, owners of multiplex apartments and hotels who miss the deadline could pay $100,000 or more.

The recalled heads were blamed for at least two fires in Washington. A kitchen fire spread to a Renton apartment home, causing substantial damage but no injuries. A sprinkler head finally activated three hours later. And an outdoor sportsman show at the Puyallup Fairgrounds was interrupted when linseed oil caught fire. Three nearby sprinklers failed.

The dangerous “O-ring” heads have a flat circular ring at the base, while the safer “Belleville bottom” heads are cone-shaped. But identifying defective sprinklers can be tricky; 65 different models were included in the recall and some heads may be concealed with a ceiling plate. The State Fire Marshal’s office said it is willing to help property owners determine whether their sprinkler heads are included in the recall. Those who need assistance are being directed to call 866-977-7366.

More information about the recall and claims procedures are on Tyco’s Web site at

Property owners who submit claims before the Aug. 31 deadline will still need to wait up to two years for the free replacements due to the large number of claims that have yet to be processed, the AG’s office said.

Source: AG

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