A week after the sprinklers were set off in the LBJ senior citizens apartments at Humboldt Parkway and Main Street, some residents still were drying out their belongings Thursday and assessing the damage to their personal property.
For Robert Krefta, this was the third time since he had moved in June 1995 into the apartments operated by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority that a small fire or smoke triggered the sprinkler system and sent water cascading into his apartment and several others in the building.
This time, Krefta said, a cooking fire in a neighboring apartment opened the flood gates.
"The water went straight down to the first floor," Krefta said Thursday, pointing to recently patched sections of the ceiling in his sixth-floor apartment. "The water was running for almost 45 minutes before they shut it off."
The flood from the sprinklers started between 2 and 3 p.m. Sept. 16 and soaked the entire sixth floor and floors below. Clothes in Krefta's apartment were drenched, as were several pairs of shoes and a collection of jazz albums he stored in four cardboard boxes.
"I did the best I could drying them out," he said. "Fortuately, my computer didn't get damaged, but my phone went out. . . . My phone was out all that day."
One floor below, 96-year-old Charlotte Lewis recalled her frustration.
"See those valances up there (over the window). I just put them up on a Wednesday, and this mess happened on a Thursday, and water just poured in here," she said. "This is the second time I've had this happen."
A new mattress and box spring donated by a local mattress manufacturer occupied a huge space in the middle of her living room Thursday. It was delivered, she said, to replace her old mattress, which had been damaged from the water that rained into her apartment. The new mattress hadn't yet been set up because Lewis had just returned home from a brief stay in the hospital.
The doctors "didn't want me to come home today because (they were afraid) I might have a stroke. You know this whole thing got on my nerves," she said.
An 81-year old neighbor next door was waiting for the Housing Authority to replace damaged bedroom carpeting.
Krefta said he has not received satisfactory compensation from the housing authority after water previously damaged items in his apartment.
"I fought them on (the reimbursement for) this couch," Krefta said, pointing to a yellow velvet sofa in his living room that water damaged.
"I wanted $600 for that couch. It cost $1,200. I got it from my aunt. She had it for two years and hardly ever used it. I told them you can't buy a new couch for $300," he said.
Krefta also complained about the lack of accessibility to a key to shut off the sprinkler long before the Fire Department responded and several minutes after the sprinklers clearly had doused the fire.
Keys to unlock the padlocks on the shutoff valve for the sprinklers on each floor are kept in the management office on the first floor.
Sharon M. West, the housing authority's executive director, said the authority's modernization unit will assess the sprinkler system in the 40-year-old building. She blamed a design flaw for the seepage of water from floor to floor.
She said the authority might seek advice from a structural engineer on correcting the problem.