Donated sprinkler system honors fallen firefighter

This fall, Capital City District Habitat for Humanity partnered with Tyco Fire Suppression and Building Products (a division of Tyco Intl.), local contractor Albany Fire Protection and others to finish work on “The Ted Abriel House,” the first it has constructed to feature a residential fire sprinkler system.

Albany, N.Y. — In January 2007, Ted Abriel, a firefighter working as an acting lieutenant for the Albany Fire Department died of a massive heart attack while fighting a blaze in the upper stories of a high-rise apartment building.

This fall, Capital City District Habitat for Humanity partnered with Tyco Fire Suppression and Building Products (a division of Tyco Intl.), local contractor Albany Fire Protection and others to finish work on “The Ted Abriel House,” the first it has constructed to feature a residential fire sprinkler system.

Anthony “Chick” Granito, a volunteer coordinator with Capital District Habitat for Humanity was instrumental in the push to construct a sprinklered home. He served in the 1970s as the director of research for the National Fire Protection Association, and has been a longtime advocate for residential fire suppression systems.

“We want this house to be a model for other builders in the area,”Granito said. “We're hoping this creates a trend in the community.”

Albany Fire Protection donated the labor for the installation after being contacted by the Albany Fire Department and the National Fire Sprinkler Association. Albany Fire Protection is a union shop consisting of about 40 employees, including 24 pipefitters, the front office, designers and so forth. It serves the greater part of New York State — other than New York City — and parts of Western Massachusetts, Southern Vermont and, on rare occasion, Pennsylvania.

The company was founded 24 years ago this September by Tom Kelly, who is still in charge as owner, operator and, as he jokes, “chief cook and bottle washer.” Their work is strictly water-based fire protection.

“I asked the [sprinklerfitters] and they were all willing to donate their time,” Kelly said. “I had eight of them down there and we blew it out in a day. We had to go back later on and touch up a few things as the job progressed, but 95% of it was done in a single day, and for a good cause. Cost me more in doughnuts than anything!”

Kelly and his crew installed Tyco's Rapid Response System, an NFPA 13-R wet-pipe sprinkler system. “It was installed with CPVC plastic pipe and fittings,” Kelly said, “and we used residential sprinkler heads — a very simple alarm riser assembly with a little water switch that rings a bell when the water flows if, god forbid, there's a problem.”

The sprinkler heads activate when they hit a target temperature, delivering a spray of water directly to the affected area, not, Kelly emphasizes, all going off at once like in the movies.

The team - all members of Sprinklerfitters Local 669 - sprinklered the basement, first floor and the bedroom areas on the second floor. Kelly calls it a relatively simple job.

“We do it all the time, this type of installation,“ said Kelly. “One guy calls the shots and everyone else just does what they have to do.”

Warren Abriel, executive deputy chief for the Albany Fire Department as well as the brother of Ted Abriel believes the house makes a fitting tribute, both for Ted, and for all the firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty, saying:

“I'm glad Capital District Habitat for Humanity decided to protect a family in need in my brother's name.”