Lights and Sirens

Malfunctioning Furnace Causes Mess, Cancels Fire Department Plans

Sanborn, Iowa — The Sanborn firefighters were on their way to the station for a “light up the night” COVID-19 solidarity event, just like several other departments in northwest Iowa on Wednesday night, when suddenly their pagers went off, about 6:50 p.m.

The firefighters wouldn’t get to take part in the solidarity event. They had to go to a fire call. But the call turned out to be more of a mess than a fire.

Sanborn Fire Chief Randy Lyman says the call was to the assisted living part of Praire View, for a report of smoke and a sprinkler that had activated. He says when they got there, they discovered that the problem was in a furnace closet. The furnace served one unit of the assisted living center.

Firefighters were able to determine that the blower motor in the furnace either shorted or malfunctioned, and was not turning. With no moving air, the furnace overheated enough to trip the sprinkler head directly above the furnace. He says the water ran through the whole apartment, under the door, and into the hallway. He says firefighters used a thermal camera to make sure there were no hot spots in the attic or elsewhere, helped staff clean up the water, and recharged the sprinkler system.

He says the 15 firefighters were there for about two hours.

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