At 5:29 p.m. Wednesday, the City of Hays Fire Department, assisted by the Hays Police Department was dispatched to an automatic fire alarm at the Best Western Butterfield Inn, 1010 E. 41st, Hays. On arrival, firefighters found a fire sprinkler pipe in the attic of the hotel had failed causing a large volume of water flow into the hotel.

Firefighters immediately began work to stop the loss to the property and control the hazards caused by the uncontrolled flow of water. The fire sprinkler system was shut down and efforts were made to reduce the weight of the water on the upper floor to prevent collapse. Guests were evacuated and electrical power was shut down to reduce the danger. A room-by-room search was conducted to make sure all persons were safe and no one needed assistance. The damage extended through large areas of the building.

All available off-duty firefighters were called back to staff additional fire trucks to assist at the scene and maintain protection throughout the city. Assistance was also requested from the Ellis County Fire Department to help with this work. During the emergency, firefighters responded to one other coincident emergency call.

The Hays Police Department maintained traffic control and a safe perimeter. Police officers worked with the hotel staff to provide security for unprotected personal property until the owners could be located. An inspector from the City of Hays Planning, Inspection and Enforcement Division also responded to help assess the damage and coordinate necessary follow-up action to make sure the building was safe.

Fire crews left the scene at 7:35 p.m.

The cause of the fire sprinkler pipe failure was not immediately apparent. Fire sprinkler systems have a record of high reliability and such failures are rare. Automatic fire sprinkler systems are necessary to protect life and property in large buildings where manual firefighting is not practical or large numbers of people gather. Individual fire sprinklers are activated by the high heat of a fire in the immediate area. Typically only one or two fire sprinklers activate to control a fire. When activated, fire sprinkler systems also sound an alarm to alert building occupants to the danger and call the fire department to respond without delay. With the exception of explosions and similar catastrophic events, there has never been a large loss of life fire in a building protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system.  

Earlier in the day, a fire truck crew from the City of Hays Fire Department was flagged down by workers at the Quality Inn, 2810 Vine. The workers reported a fire in the steel stanchion supporting the large outdoor sign for the motel.

The firefighters on-scene called for help bringing a second fire truck and the shift commander. An aerial ladder was used to gain access to an opening high in the stanchion to extinguish the fire. The City of Hays Police Department assisted in diverting traffic and maintaining a safety perimeter.

The most probable cause of the fire was sparks from steel cutting work being done by workers to repair the sign. The sparks ignited combustible bird nest materials accumulated over the years inside the steel stanchion. There was no damage to the steel stanchion or the sign.

Off-duty firefighters were called back to staff additional fire trucks during this prolonged operation. These firefighters responded to one coincident emergency call for service.

Fire crews left the scene at 12:13 p.m.