Sprinkler soaks Missouri State Historical Society documents

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | 9:25 p.m. CDT; updated 9:38 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 30, 2009

COLUMBIA — A malfunctioning sprinkler head sprayed books and records belonging to the Missouri State Historical Society in Ellis Library Wednesday evening, damaging historic documents.    

Columbia firefighters arrived after receiving a report of a fire alarm sounding in the library. The crews found the source of the alarm to be an activated sprinkler head in a storage room containing the society's historical documents.

“There was no fire,” Capt. Eric Hartman said. “It was some sort of mechanical failure in the head, which did cause water discharge. There are a significant number of historical documents and books that are water-soaked.”

Firefighters shut off the sprinkler head and began cleaning the storage room. Historical society staff rushed to the site and began restoration work on the documents.

“Because of the historical nature of the documents, it’s impossible to put a dollar amount on the damage that has been caused at this point,” Hartman said.

According to Hartman, about three shelves worth of books and documents were soaked . No one was in the room when the sprinkler head was triggered.

Hartman said firefighters don't know why the fire sprinkler went off.

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