Student triggers fire sprinkler, floods entire wing of Callahan Hall

Outside of Callahan, where water was pouring from the building.

Abigail Hull

Outside of Callahan, where water was pouring from the building.

At 7 o’clock in the morning on August 20, Rick Seal didn’t want to wake up his roommates living with him in A302 in Callahan Hall. Unfortunately, he wasn’t successful in his mission.

“I had the earliest class,” Seal said. “[My roommates] were asleep…. I was almost all ready, but I had to go put my shirt down to brush my teeth.” He realized there was a nearby spot to hang his shirt up: a fire sprinkler.

When Seal came back to take the shirt off of the hanger, that’s when it happened: “I tapped [the sprinkler’s seal] with the hanger when I took the shirt off.” Water came pouring out of the sprinkler then, he said, waking up all of his roommates.

According to System Sensor, a company that makes building fire detection and fighting equipment, such as the sprinkler, these sprinklers can pump out more than ten gallons per minute.

The sprinkler that flooded the A-wing of Callahan.
The sprinkler that flooded the A-wing of Callahan.

Right after the sprinkler activated, Seal went looking for help. He tried his Resident Assistant, who he said was in the shower. He went down to the front desk of Callahan, which wasn’t open yet.

Within minutes, water had begun to go through to lower floors, flooding the entirety of Callahan’s A-wing, and the fire alarms were blaring, waking the rest of the residents up and forcing them outside.

“When I woke up, it was raining from the ceiling,” said Trevor Matthews, former resident of Callahan room A202. Matthews said he is being relocated to Norse Hall.

“I think it was one of those not-thinking moments,” University Police Chief Jason Willis said. “I don’t think there was any intent to do damage, but I think it’s one of those things that probably wasn’t the best decision.”

Seal admits it was a stupid mistake. “I personally…have tried to get every person whose room I have affected, to personally say sorry,” Seal said. “I want to say ‘I’m sorry,’ because I screwed up.”

Residents living in A102, A103, A202, A203, A302 and A303 said they were being moved out permanently.

Danielle Hoffman, former resident of A102, said, “I really didn’t know how bad it was going to be until I got back in our room for 10 minutes to get my books for class, and there was a solid inch of water…throughout the room.”

Since there was no malicious intent, there will be no criminal charges filed, according to Willis. He said he hopes people learn from this and won’t mess around with the water sprinklers.

Seal said that his insurance and the university’s insurance are still working out the details about paying for damages. However, Director of University Housing Arnie Slaughter has been unavailable for comment about the amount of damage, the costs, and how the university will be addressing the situation.