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School sprinklers flood 13 classrooms, damaging books, computers

July 3, 2011 |  2:22 pm

Firefighters clean up water at Loren Miller Elementary School in Los Angeles after a fire sprinkler broke.

Loren Miller Elementary will still be open for school Tuesday despite severe weekend flooding that damaged 13 classrooms, ruined scores of books and threatened to ruin some two dozen computers, school officials said.

A ceiling water sprinkler malfunctioned sometime Saturday and set off a chain reaction, causing several sprinklers to spew water in hallways and classrooms even though there was no apparent blaze, said Principal Jean Mitchell.

“The one malfunctioned and the rest followed,” Mitchell said. “It started in one classroom.”

Firefighters arrived at the South Los Angeles school on West 77th Street  about 1:30 p.m. and after finding no flames, worked alongside school district employees and contractors to sweep water out of the one building where most of the flooding occurred, said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Mitchell said the flooding made the building appear as though “a tornado had hit.”

“All of the tiles on the ceiling were down on the floor, everything was drenched,” Mitchell said.

She said maintenance crews were using dehumidifiers to tackle the damage and that others were trying to “dry out” the computers, many of which were brand new, in hopes that they could be salvaged. On campus Sunday, crews tried to dry damaged areas and some carried away broken pieces of ceiling in trash cans while others cleaned various parts of the campus.

The school operates all year and has 1,045 students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Miller says that there were already some other available classrooms that she will use while the damage is repaired, an effort she estimates may take about a month.

“We’re just having to make some adjustments. We’re still going to be ready on Tuesday,” Mitchell said. “We’ll just have to shift some students around.”


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Photo: Firefighters clean up water at Loren Miller Elementary School in Los Angeles after a fire sprinkler broke. Credit: Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times