, Salem, MA

January 9, 2014

Frigid temperatures bring rash of broken pipes


---- — A fire sprinkler pipe burst in an office area at Beverly Hospital yesterday morning, one of many water leaks caused by the freezing cold that has engulfed the North Shore and much of the country.

“There was some pretty good water damage in a few rooms,” said Beverly Deputy fire Chief Bill Petrosino.

With temperatures dipping below 10 degrees yesterday, and plummeting below zero a few days ago, firefighters, DPW workers and plumbers have been busy.

“There’s been a lot of broken sprinkler pipes through the city in residential and commercial buildings,” said Salem fire Capt. Peter Digiacomo.

Salem firefighters have responded to 27 calls for broken pipes in the past week. It has been the same everywhere.

Danvers firefighters went to Market Basket on Endicott Street yesterday afternoon for a burst sprinkler pipe that forced the supermarket to close a side entrance. The packed supermarket remained open as customers used the main entrance while workers mopped up the water.

In the past few days, the Danvers Fire Department has responded to broken sprinkler pipes at Courtyard Marriott, Avalon apartments on Kirkbride Drive and Cell Signaling Technology on Trask Lane. The department has had almost 100 calls for service over the past week or so.

A fire watch was lifted yesterday at Lifebridge, the city shelter on Margin Street in Salem, after repairs were completed to a sprinkler pipe that burst over the weekend, according to the Fire Department. Sprinkler repairs generally take a while, an official said, because they usually require a licensed contractor to drain the system, repair the break and refill the system with water.

Local plumbers have been inundated by calls from homeowners dealing with winter’s worst one-two punch — no heat followed by broken pipes.

“I can tell you that from Friday through Sunday, we fielded 154 calls,” said Brian Cranney, president of Cranney Companies of Danvers. Many of them were for burst pipes, he said.

It’s the combination of cold and wind that causes the worst problems, Cranney said. “It’s the draft that hits those pipes and causes them to freeze up a lot quicker,” he said.

Tips to prevent water breaks include making sure pipes are well-insulated, especially any that run through an attic or unheated area; checking for drafts in windows and doors; leaving water trickling in a faucet at night; and opening the cabinet doors to sinks, in particular those by outside walls, officials said. Anyone who goes away for a few days or longer should have a friend or family member check the residence, officials said.

The worst news about broken pipes is that more emergencies are expected this weekend when frozen pipes thaw as the temperature rises.

“We’re not done,” said Danvers Chief Kevin Farrell.

Tom Dalton can be reached at