About three-quarters of the roof covering Meriden's Sherman Avenue Fire Station collapsed late Saturday night from the weight of heavy snow and ice. The cave-in was particularly surprising for the Fire Department, because the station had a peaked roof.
"We have three stations with flat roofs, and cleared the snow off of them last week," Assistant Fire Chief Robert Burdick said Sunday.
For the past few weeks, city and state government offices have been warning owners of buildings with flat roofs that their properties were at the greatest risk of structural failure. Collapses of flat-roofed structures around the state have supported these words.
Now it appears that no building is immune from the pounding precipitation the state has gotten this winter.
Firefighters on duty Saturday night at Station 4, located at 260 Sherman Ave., heard popping and cracking noises coming from the ceiling of the building's garage or equipment room. When they opened a ceiling access panel, they saw that metal gusset plates were popping out of the wood supporting the roof, Burdick said.
The firefighters evacuated the building and took as much equipment as possible with them, before the roof caved in. No one was injured. Sherman Ave. firefighters are now working out of the station at 61 Pratt St. Burdick said he does not know when the building will be repaired.
Building enginners also inspected the large brick apartment complex next door to the station at 234 Sherman Ave. on Sunday afternoon for possible structural issues due to the heavy snowfall.
Martin Sanchez and his son David live across the street from the station. They took the station's roof collapse as a cautionary tale, and spent Sunday afternoon on top of their garage, shoveling.
This incident follows a weekend of roof collapses and other structural concerns throughout the city that have kept the fire department busy. Townline Square Plaza on South Broad Street is still shut down Sunday after roof issues were discovered at the Burlington Coat Factory, causing the whole complex to be evacuated Saturday. Nearly the entire west side of the Wonder Hostess Outlet Bakery at 1319 East Main Street caved in Sunday, after a clerk heard noises, ran out and called 911. No one was hurt in either incident, the fire department said.
Outlet employee Sue Hehl of Waterbury was scheduled to work Sunday evening at the shop, and stopped by to see the damage at 5 p.m. Sunday. She said a regional manager would be coming in Monday to assess damages, and that she didn't know when the store would reopen, or if it could partially reopen.
The city has also ordered the owners of the Atrium Condos at 1274 East Main St. to clear off their roofs after residents were reporting new cracks, Burdick said.
"If there were any immediate danger, we'd evacuate people," he said.
Though these incidents may make homeowners scramble to the top of their homes, Burdick warned that the most calls the department has received this weekend have been for people falling off of roofs.
He offers some advice: "Never go up on the roof alone, let someone else know that you're up there. Stay at least five feet away from the edges, and know that when the sun goes down, it gets slippery."