Sprinkler mishap by tenant prompts apartment building evacuation in downtown White River Junction

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Eric Francis

Floods apartment on last day of eviction process

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A tenant facing imminent eviction prompted the evacuation of the five-unit apartment complex at 459 South Main Street apartment building over the noon hour on Monday when he managed to accidentally set off the sprinkler system inside his apartment.

Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney (center) said the "tenant accidentally struck the sprinkler head and caused it to activate."

    Matt Staley, who was being evicted in part because of a stove fire that he caused in recent weeks after neighbors said he told them he'd put twigs and leaves inside his oven, told Hartford Fire Department investigators on Monday that, despite his penchant for what police described as somewhat unusual "experiments," he had not deliberately tried to activate the fire suppression system in his apartment.

Matt Staley talks with Valley News reporter Jordan Cuddemi outside his apartment building Monday

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    "I was cleaning my apartment, cleaning the pots and pans on the stove and everything, and all of the sudden the sprinkler just burst," Staley told reporters as firefighters vacuumed water out of his second floor apartment and apartments belonging to some of his neighbors on the first floor below.

Hartford firefighter strap on wet-vacs to clear water out of the apartments

    Staley, who lives on Social Security disability, had been one of the original tenants in the new building which opened last year as part of the "Scattered Sites" affordable housing project developed by the Twin Pines housing trust.

    Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter was at the scene Monday and, while he declined to go into specifics, he acknowledged that his organization was in the process of evicting Staley and that Staley was slated to leave on Monday.  "We've had some issues and that's the cause of this eviction," Winter said.

Twin Pines director Andrew Winter (right) said only one resident ended up being displaced to a motel for the night

    Despite the timing, Winter said the he agreed with the fire department that Monday's mishap appeared to be, as Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney put it, "Purely accidental."

   "I've had a chance to look at it with the chief and the fire marshal and it certainly looks to be consistent with the fire marshal's initial determination that it is accidental in nature," Winter said at the scene.

Zachary Dionne and his mother Carolyn Jones, some of the nine residents who evacuated, kept an eye on their pug "LJ"

Staley told Hartford Fire Marshal Mike Bedard that he was moving to the Haven homeless shelter following the mishap

Vermont News can be contacted at vermontnews802@gmail.com


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