Real fire or false alarm?

Leah Mulaly

The fire alarm went off unexpectedly around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 24. It was not a drill. Many students assumed that someone had pulled it—a perfectly plausible explanation. But when three additional fire trucks rushed to Cedar Park High School after the usual one, plus an EMS vehicle and police, students began to think that there was a real fire. Standing outside in the cold mist, students speculated as to what could have caused the assumed fire and fretted about their belongings.

            “I was mad because it was cold and I didn’t have a jacket,” Jackie Blaine, sophomore, said.

At first, the cause of alarm was unknown, so four fire trucks came to the rescue, including trucks from neighboring departments, not just the station on Cypress Creek.

            “It’s better to come with [all the firemen] and have it be a false alarm than wish we had sent everyone because it would take so much extra time to call everyone. By that time, people could be hurt or even killed,” a representative from the Cedar Park fire department said.

            When the firemen arrived, they spread out and searched for fire, smoke, or even the smell of smoke. Finding nothing, they allowed people to return to class in all buildings but the C building, where the alert came from. Turns out, there wasn’t actually a fire.

            There’s a big sprinkler pump in a room in the back of the school responsible for keeping water pressure up in the fire-prevention sprinkler system. The pressure falls when one of the sprinklers in the ceiling turns on, and this drop in water pressure is detected via a sensor on the water pump. The alert sets off the fire alarm, because generally when a sprinkler turns on, it’s because there is a fire. In this case, there wasn’t really a fire.

            “A sensor said the pump turned on, but it actually hadn’t,” Joe Ciccarelli, assistant principal, said. “We knew it was a sensor, so at that point, the fire chief let people back into the C building.”

            The specific sensor that had malfunctioned was discovered later Tuesday afternoon.