False alarm sounds at the State House Sprinkler malfunction causes smoke-like mist

July 12, 1996|By John Rivera and William F. Zorzi Jr. | John Rivera and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

It had all the makings of a catastrophe.

Television newscasters broke into their programs last night with a report of a two-alarm fire at the historic State House in Annapolis. At least one reported that smoke and flames were shooting from the building's dome.

The only thing missing was the fire.

An apparent sprinkler system malfunction triggered a two-alarm response by Annapolis and Anne Arundel County firefighters and created a halo of cascading water visible for blocks.

A fire alarm went off about 10: 35 p.m., with water shooting through high-pressure pipes at 1,000 gallons a minute from the basement to the dome, which is under repair and covered by scaffolding. Water poured into the sky, then cascaded down, and the resulting mist illuminated in the floodlights gave the appearance of smoke.

At least, that's what the Annapolis Fire Department battalion chief thought when he arrived at 10: 43 p.m. He called immediately for a second alarm -- and seven engines, three ladder trucks and two paramedic units eventually responded.

But nothing was burning.

"At the present time, it appears to be an accidental alarm," said Capt. Leonard A. Clark Jr., a Fire Department spokesman. "It could be from the fact that the dome is under construction. We haven't located any actual fire."

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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