Sprinkler valve off during Barclay fire

Investigators now say a sprinkler valve was likely in the off position during the Nov. 16, 2017 fire at the Barclay Friends Senior Center in West Chester that killed four people. It has still not been determined what caused the fire, but there is no indication of arson. Those were the findings given in a press release the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued today.

When first responders arrived on the scene at approximately 10:45 that night, the Woolman building was fully involved with fire. Responders first efforts were to evacuate the 152 residents and staff members and then turn their efforts to fight the fire.

When investigators arrived on the scene, the main sprinkler valve was found in the off position. Despite extensive testing and interviews, investigators were unable to determine definitively when the valve was turned off. Based on the totality of the investigation, it is the belief of the investigators that it was off during the fire.

The fire investigation was a collaborative effort and worked in coordination with the Chester County District Attorney's Office, Chester County Fire Marshal's Office, Pennsylvania State Police, West Chester Police Department, Chester County Sheriff’s Office and Chester County Department of Emergency Services.

Based on the scene examination and witness statements, the area of origin of the fire was determined to have been in the rear garden room – which was located on the outdoor patio, under the Woolman building overhang. The exact point of origin is unknown due to the extensive damage caused by the fire.

According to initial fire alarm data and witnesses, the smoke and fire alarms acted as designed with audible sirens and strobes activating upon smoke impingement on the smoke detectors within the garden room, causing the fire doors to shut. Residents and staff reported hearing these alarms and quickly started to evacuate the building.

Based on the totality of the investigation, it is the belief of the investigators that due to the excessive winds that night, the flammability of the vinyl siding on the building, and lack of exterior sprinklers (not currently required by code), the fire was able to intensify and spread rapidly to the roof and other parts of the building.

After more than 300 interviews, a systematic fire-scene examination and re-creation, the review of witness photos, videos and observations, as well as extensive scientific testing at the ATF Fire Research Lab in Beltsville, Md., the cause of the fire has been ruled "undetermined."

Anyone having information regarding this fire should call the ATF 2417 hotline at 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888- 283-3473), email: A TFTips@atf.gov (l ink sends e-mail) or submit a tip anonymously by using the Reportlt App on your mobile phone.

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