THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

High-rise evacuated for burst sprinklers

By Taylor M. Miles
Globe Correspondent / September 2, 2011

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About 125 residents were displaced and at least 20 units were damaged last night after an emergency sprinkler burst on the 23rd floor of a high-rise near Tufts Medical Center in Chinatown and sent water rushing through the building and soaking residences, fire officials said.

Water flowed heavily from the sprinkler at The Metropolitan complex at 1 Nassau St. down to about the fifth floor, leaking into and damaging about two units on each floor, according to Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. There were no reported injuries, but Boston EMS examined one person for unknown reasons.

Damage to the building, which contains apartments and condominiums, could be at least $500,000, fire officials said.

About 45 firefighters responded to a call at about 5:41 p.m., and they quickly shut off the sprinkler system, but water still drains once the system is off, according to MacDonald. Those affected by the water were evacuated from the 23-story high-rise last night, but aside from the displaced residents, the other occupants were able to return last night.

While the sprinkler that caused the damage was on the 23rd floor, the sprinkler that initially burst was in the basement garage, officials said. A person was driving with a mattress tied to the roof of the car when the mattress sheared a sprinkler head in the garage.

The fire protection system recognized a sprinkler was flowing and automatically initiated a strong pressure pump to ensure water flowed throughout the system. The pressure appeared to have built up so intensely that the sprinkler on the 23rd floor burst, according to officials.

The building’s owners are providing temporary boarding for those displaced from the apartments on floors three through nine, and the condo association is helping residents on floors 10 through 23, officials said.

Officials were uncertain last night how long the residents would remain displaced, but the lower floors had far less damage than the upper levels.

Taylor Miles can be reached at tmiles@globe.com.