April 9, 2006
A small fire in an old Stamford warehouse
last week erupted into a large blaze because the former
owner of the complex shut off a broken sprinkler system
years ago instead of repairing it, investigators told The
Records show it is unclear when Heyman Properties
of Westport, which owned the property until October, shut
down the sprinkler system because of cracked and frozen
pipes. Representatives of Antares Real Estate Services,
the current owners, said they knew the system was broken
and had started fixing it.
The April 3 fire destroyed a block-long downtown warehouse
that formerly housed a 19th-century lock manufacturer, Yale
& Towne Manufacturing Co. It forced at least a dozen
people from the building and prompted the evacuation of
as many as 200 others from the area.
The building housed an antiques dealer, a
custom motorcycle shop, a furniture refinishing company
and artists studios, authorities said. Damage estimates
were in the millions of dollars.
According to Stamford officials, the building's
maintenance supervisor said the sprinklers didn't work when
he was interviewed after the fire.
"I speculate that it would probably be
cheaper to have repaired it than what has happened,"
said William Callion, the city's public safety director.
The newspaper placed phone messages seeking
comment with three Heyman executives.
City inspection records show dozens of fire
code violations at the old lock manufacturer since 1990.
Stamford fire marshals had not formally inspected the building
since 2002. Fire officials said they cannot inspect every
business each year as required by state law.
"It's just a physical impossibility,"
said Barry Callahan, the city's chief fire marshal. "The
ultimate responsibility for monitoring the building lies
with the owner."