Broken water valve causes mass fire alarms, school evacuations

Posted Nov. 12, 2008, at 2:19 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:16 a.m.

BANGOR — Students at half a dozen schools around the city Wednesday were told to drop their pencils and leave the building after a drop in water pressure caused fire alarms to go off.

Alarms were sounded at Fruit Street School, James F. Doughty School, Mary Snow School and Vine Street School, along with Rangeley Hall on the Eastern Maine Community College campus, Assistant Fire Chief Darrell Cyr said Wednesday.

“Everybody was evacuated,” he said. “Once we made a determination that it was a [water] surge, everybody was allowed back in the building.”

Warning bells also went off at several businesses, including Burlington Coat Factory, the CareerCenter, Shaw’s on Springer Drive, the L.L. Bean outlet store and every store in the Bangor Mall, Cyr said.

Superintendent Betsy Webb said the emergency alarm was better than a fire drill, because it was not planned and demonstrates the effectiveness of the school department’s emergency response plan.

“It went smoothly,” she said. “Children were accounted for and brought right back into the building. Fortunately, it was not a major emergency. It did verify, for us, [that] our fire evacuation plans are more than effective.”

The children were outside between 10 and 15 minutes, she said.

Kathy Moriarty, general manager of the Bangor Water District, said a valve failed on a 16-inch water main along Stillwater Avenue, causing a drop in water pressure. That drop caused the fire alarms to go off and left most of the stores along Stillwater Avenue, between Hogan Road and Gilman Avenue without water. The pipe is expected to be fixed this afternoon, she said.

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