Norwich — It was a soggy end to Thanksgiving at the recently restored Wauregan apartment building. Tenants were wakened at 1:22 a.m. Friday to a fire alarm set off after a sprinkler system pipe burst, flooding many of the same apartments soaked Monday during a similar incident.
“I think I'm going to build an ark,” said Lisa Catan, a tenant in the ground-floor apartment flooded twice this week.
Tenants in eight apartments were temporarily displaced by Friday morning's soaking. Some spent the night in some of the five vacant apartments in the Wauregan, while others spent the remainder of the night with family or friends, said Wauregan Property Manager Jennifer Greene.
Norwich Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Kurasz said the sprinkler pipe break caused the fire alarm to go off. There was no fire. Tenants evacuated the building quickly — “We're getting good at this,” Greene said — and soon were allowed to return to the lobby. Fire officials shut off the sprinkler system, and Norwich Public Utilities was able to isolate the affected area and turn on power to the rest of the building.
Officials from the American Red Cross also responded, but no tenants needed emergency housing.
On Monday, a grease fire on a stove triggered the sprinkler system, causing water damage to four apartments. When fire crews shut the system off, a sprinkler pipe burst at the opposite end of the building, flooding another five apartments. All of those units and three additional apartments were flooded again Friday when the pipe in the same area broke.
Crews from Cintas Fire Protection, the sprinkler alarm system, Preferred Electric of Wethersfield and Servpro had arrived later Friday morning to repair the pipe, inspect electrical systems and soak up the water damage, respectively.
By 3 p.m., the building's fire alarm and sprinkler system were back on line, Kurasz said.
On Monday, construction contractors will arrive to repair drywall, ceilings and assess which areas need to be repainted, Greene said.
Sunny and Ted Low, the resident building superintendents, experienced the worst damage this week. The Lows haven't been back in their apartments since Monday. They've been staying in a vacant apartment. Part of the ceiling in their apartment collapsed, and the Lows' computer, phone and personal items were ruined. With no electricity for five days, she knows the contents of her refrigerator also would be ruined.
“Mine too,” said tenant James Beckwith raising his hand, but with a smile on his face.
Beckwith, who does not have renters' insurance, also feared his mattress was soaked. Yet he remained upbeat throughout the ordeal, mingling in the lobby with tenants and building staff.
Catan praised the Wauregan staff for its handling of both incidents.
“I have to say, the management has gone out of its way to make sure the tenants are safe ...” she said, and then paused. “Well, I can't say happy.”
Businesses in the neighborhood also responded to the emergencies at the affordable housing apartment complex, providing a complete Thanksgiving Day dinner on Thursday, served in the restored historic Wauregan Ballroom.
The St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen, Old Tymes Restaurant, and local stores R&A Market and C&S Pawn made donations for the meal. Alex Bekiaris, owner of the Wauregan Deli, cooked the turkey and carved it. Morning Glories, a flower shop also in the Wauregan, donated a fresh flower centerpiece.
By mid-day Friday, Greene was making arrangements to serve leftovers in the ballroom again to the tenants still lingering in the lobby. She and Sunny Low also used the wait to start planning the Wauregan tenant Christmas party. They plan to set up a tree in the lobby, have a carol sing and party. The tree was supposed to be set up next week, but Greene suggested waiting a little longer to get past the water problems.
“It's been inconvenient for so many people at a time when they should be relaxing,” Greene said.
Staff Writer M. Matthew Clark contributed to this story.