Wind: 13 mph
By Erin Post
A sprinkler head malfunction prompted an evacuation of Evergreen Place Monday evening.
Emergency personnel responded to the scene about 6:30 p.m. and cut electricity to the housing complex. As a result, the building's 21 tenants -- all of whom are senior citizens or adults with disabilities -- were displaced for the night.
Delbert Palmer, Waitsfield's fire chief, said it took about three and one-half hours to account for all tenants and secure the building. Because elevators were out of commission, responders used stair chairs -- devices that provide seated transport up and down stairs without bumps and jostles -- to help some second floor residents get safely outside.
Mary Alice Bisbee, a resident of Evergreen Place, said she was watching the evening news when alarms started sounding. She said she emerged to find sprinklers in the back part of the building going off "full tilt." Firefighters quickly entered to explain what was happening and to move people outside.
Liz Mineo, property manager for the Central Vermont Community Land Trust complex, said some residents spent the night with family and friends in the area. The land trust also booked 10 rooms at the Sugar Tree Inn and arranged transportation for residents who preferred to stay there.
"We're just grateful that nobody was hurt," she said. "And that it wasn't the middle of the winter."
It appears as though water damage was contained to two or three apartments in one section of the building, Mineo said. On Tuesday, giant fans were brought in for the damaged apartments and the hallway.
"Hopefully it's just a matter of drying things out," she said.
Although lunch was canceled on Tuesday, she said she expected most residents to return to their apartments later in the day.
The Mad River Valley Food Shelf -- located in the back of the building -- suffered minimal damage, said coordinator Nancy Pignatello. On Tuesday, crews had a machine in the room sucking water out that had seeped in under the door.
"Everything is fine that was on the shelves," she said. And luckily, the food shelf planned to place a meat order at the end of the week, so their supply in the freezer had dwindled.
Mineo said officials from the sprinkler system company were at Evergreen Place Tuesday to determine what had malfunctioned. A meeting for residents regarding the incident is slated for later this week.
Mineo praised the local emergency responders as well as Valley residents who helped out.
Matt Howes volunteered to bus residents to the Sugar Tree Inn, she said, and the Village Grocery donated food to residents who missed dinner Monday evening. Green Mountain Transit volunteered to drive tenants back to their apartments.
"The community and emergency personnel were absolutely excellent," she said.
The Barre-based Central Vermont Community Land Trust manages the 18-unit rental complex as an independent living facility for seniors and adults with disabilities.