OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As the remains of the Barry Street complex that housed three businesses before Wednesday’s fire continued to smolder, the owner of the building addressed the decision to shut off the water supply to the building’s hydrants and sprinkler system.
John Bouwens, owner of the building near Holland that went up in flames Wednesday, told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday that he purchased the building out of foreclosure about three years ago. There were problems with the plumbing system that carried water to the hydrants and sprinkler system, so he asked the Ottawa County Public Utilities Department to shut off the supply in May 2014.
There have been various tenants in and out of the building since then. Most recently, Trin Polymer and Holland Pallet Repair moved in in April and May.
Bouwens said he was working on getting a replacement sprinkler system in place when the fire sparked, destroying Trin and Holland Pallet and damaging Magnum Equipment.
He says a fire specialist involved in creating the new system told him Wednesday’s fire was so intense it probably would have overwhelmed the sprinkler system even if it was working.
“Quite possibly, but it would have held it back,” Olive Township Fire Chief Duane Wolter said.
And the on-site hydrants, which were also dry during the fire, could have reduced the need for the dozen or so tankers that had to shuttle water to the scene well into the afternoon, Wolters added.
Communications concerning the water shutoff was another problem. Township officials were notified by the county when the water was turned off in May of 2014 — more than a year before the fire.
“We weren’t aware that it wasn’t ever turned back on,” said Todd Wolters, the fire chief’s brother and the Olive Township supervisor.
Thursday, Supervisor Wolters says he’s working with the county Public Utilities Department on a policy that would not only update that information more often, but also make sure building owners are taking care of problems.
“That would be the goal, to hold the companies more accountable, to make sure that it’s taken care of. It is the company’s responsibility to make sure they have their systems in check,” Supervisor Wolters said.
He said it appears the lack of sprinklers violated the building code, but is still trying to determine what, if any, fines may be levied against the owner.