Investigators: GE was warned of fire danger at Appliance Park - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Investigators: GE was warned of fire danger at Appliance Park

The fire destroyed Building 6 at GE Appliance Park. (Source: Air 3, WAVE 3 News) The fire destroyed Building 6 at GE Appliance Park. (Source: Air 3, WAVE 3 News)
An employee snapped this photo of the fire just as it started inside Building 6. (Source: Anonymous employee) An employee snapped this photo of the fire just as it started inside Building 6. (Source: Anonymous employee)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Louisville Metro Arson Bureau released a summary report Tuesday saying that General Electric had been warned that Building 6 at Appliance Park, which was destroyed in a massive April 3 fire, did not have sufficient fire protections.

A spokeswoman for GE preemptively responded earlier on Tuesday, saying the company's review of the report found "several key factual errors," while generally praising the efforts of firefighters to contain the blaze.

The report says the sprinkler system, which dated to the 1960s before the building was used to store plastic, should have been upgraded to a more intense system due to the increased hazard. During inspections of the sprinkler systems in 2013 and 2014, GE was notified that the hazards were not adequately protected, and the system needed to be re-evaluated.

[LOOKING BACK: Images from the blaze]

The investigators' summary says 13 employees reported that they did not see any sprinklers activated, while one reported seeing water, but said it was ineffective. Of the two security personnel interviewed, one reported seeing sprinklers above the fire, while the other was unsure.

The report also says that of the eight 1950s-era water pumps, only one was operational. Four were down for repairs and three failed, the investigators said. "Because of these factors," the summary says, "the water needed to extinguish the fire would not be available on the property."

Most of the Louisville Water Company fire hydrants on the site, which were maintained by GE and could have been used as a supplement for firefighters, were broken or out of service, the report continues.

GE contended that system tests and witness reports showed the sprinklers in the building were in proper working order and activated at the time of the fire. Further, the company says the fire marshal's timeline confirms that the pumps provided water to the firefighter's hoses and other apparatus.

In a timeline of events, the company claims that pictures and video taken by employees of Derby Industries and security personnel show the sprinklers in action. GE also points to helmet-cam video from a firefighter showing the stream from his hose reaching the top of a 25-foot stack of boxes, indicating sufficient water pressure from the pump system.

At 7:18 a.m., 30 minutes after the 911 call, the south wall collapsed, breaking sprinkler heads and sending thousands of gallons of water to the floor instead of the sprinkler and pump systems, the company said.

The company also noted several fire prevention efforts - including investing in sprinklers, alarms and a new pumping system - that were in progress before the fire.

Investigators could not officially determine a cause for the fire, but said there were lighting strikes in the area and a credible witness reported seeing a strike directly above where the fire started. The possibility that rain leaked onto electrical components, causing a short, could not be ruled out, however,

Both GE and Derby Industries, which was leasing the building, suffered losses of more than $50 million, according to the report.

The arson bureau will hold a press conference detailing the report on Wednesday afternoon.

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