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Flooded city nursing home cited 3 times in 3 years for fire sprinkler problems

Brett Dahlberg
A truck operated by the cleanup company Servpro stands outside the Wesley Gardens nursing home Thursday night after water damage forced staff to consider evacuating the home earlier in the day.

When a sprinkler line broke on the seventh floor of the Wesley Gardens nursing home in Rochester early Thursday morning, some staff feared they would need to evacuate the whole facility.

But by later in the morning, with cleanup underway, the Rochester Fire Department said likely only about 35 residents in the 200-bed facility on Upton Park would need to be relocated.

The water had flowed from the seventh floor to the basement. Staff had to shut down some electrical systems to protect people from short circuits and fire hazards.

The sprinkler system was now causing the very hazard it was meant to protect against. And it was not the first time the system was found to be deficient.

Wesley Gardens has been cited by state inspectors three times in the last three years for problems with its sprinkler system.

In March 2017, inspectors found sprinklers “heavily coated with dust and debris.” Several sprinklers were missing the anchors that connect them to pipes or walls. The state health department reported those problems were corrected that May.

Last year, another inspection found that the facility’s main electric room “lacked sprinkler protection.” According to the inspection report, the home’s facilities director told inspectors he thought the room did not need sprinklers. Seven weeks later, inspectors signed off on fixes to the fire protection system.

This August, inspectors again found fire sprinklers in the nursing home “heavily coated” in dust and debris. The facility promised to inspect its sprinklers twice a year for debris, and the state health department signed off on the plan in September.

Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News
City water crews work outside the Wesley Park nursing home Thursday morning.

On Thursday, a break in the sprinkler system disrupted operations in the nursing home and forced staff to consider evacuations. “This was absolutely a fire hazard,” said Jeffrey Monin, with the Rochester Fire Department. “That’s why we needed to get here as quick as we could and mitigate the situation.”

Monin said he could not immediately identify the cause of the break. “Could it be the cold? It could be the cold,” he said. Temperatures sank to single digits overnight before the leak was reported.

Asked whether this burst sprinkler pipe was connected to problems identified in previous inspections, a state health department spokesperson noted only that “the deficiency cited in August was corrected in October.”

No one at the nursing home would answer questions on site or respond to subsequent calls and emails.

A Servpro employee on the scene Thursday morning said his cleanup company had been called to the nursing home two weeks ago for another water problem. The employee asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media. “I can’t say anything specific, but I can say we’ve been here before,” he said.