COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WZZM) - New fire hydrants, a modern sprinkling system and other fire protection upgrades planned for Fifth Third Ballpark could cost more than $500,000.
After months of negotiations, Plainfield Township and the owners of Fifth Third Ballpark reached a tentative agreement to enhance fire protection for the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
"They acknowledge they have to do it, but we're still finalizing plans,'' Plainfield Township Fire Chief Dave Peterson said. "They'll be putting in at least three hydrants, but it could end up being more depending on what the engineers come up with.''
Work on the inside sprinkling system has been ongoing. Three smaller hydrants, called stand pipes, will be installed in stairwells.
"The fire department really pushed for access points to water inside the building,'' said Rick Solle, Plainfield Township's Director of Public Services. Adding outdoor hydrants likely will not begin until August. "Timing will have a lot to do with the Whitecaps schedule,'' he said.
So, who's paying for the upgrades?
"That's what has to be worked out going forward,'' Solle said. "It's a private extension of the township's water system, so it's going to be theirs entirely. If there's some financial help on the front end of that, we'll be getting repayment.''
When the ballpark was built in 1993, codes did not require fire hydrants. That changed in 2000 when the International Fire Code was published. The first comprehensive fire code of its kind, the IFC established minimum regulations for fire prevention and fire protection systems.
The standard is already in use at other minor league baseball stadiums. Dow Diamond in Midland, home of the Great Lakes Loons, has six fire hydrants, even though its seating capacity is 44 percent smaller than Fifth Third Ballpark.
Dow Diamond also has a separate "dry pipe'' sprinkling system used in unheated areas of the building. It isn't affected by freezing temperatures, Midland Fire Chief Chris A. Coughlin said.
The International Fire Code is updated every four years, but isn't retroactive, meaning there is no requirement for Fifth Third Ballpark to upgrade fire protection.
Peterson said he's been working with Fifth Third owners on the upgrades since the Jan. 3 fire, which heavily damaged half of the ballpark. A space heater used by a Fifth Third employee working in one of the suites caused the fire, Peterson said.
Two fire hydrants on ballpark grounds were more than 500 feet from the flames, forcing firefighters to lug hoses up ice-covered stairs. A hydrant at AJ's Fun Park was 1,500 feet away. That hydrant was used by a ladder truck to spray water from above.
All three hydrants feed from a 16-inch water main running beneath White Pine Trail parallel to West River Drive NE. With three hydrants in use, coupled with the length of hoses needed, water pressure dropped.