Last Thursday, an over-pressured fire sprinkler pipe at the Gippsland Centre began spouting water, shocking the workers at Bakers Delight with an unexpected second morning shower.

At about 9.30am, the entire Gippsland Centre was evacuated after the pipe triggered the fire emergency response.

Sale Fire Brigade was quick to arrive on the scene, led by Lieutenant Adam Robinson.

“What’s happened is one of the sprinkler pipes has over-pressured and started leaking above the oven in Bakers Delight,” Lieutenant Robinson explained.

“There is a low-pressure alarm in the sprinkler system, so once the pressure drops down with the water coming out, that sets off the alarms, and the alarms trigger the evacuation for the whole building.”

Simultaneous to triggering the evacuation, the low-pressure alarm in the Gippsland Centre’s sprinkler system activated a transmitted signal to the fire brigade.

Fire trucks in front of Gippsland Centre
Crews attended to a burst fire-sprinkler pipe at Gippsland Centre, Sale, last Thursday. Photos: Zoe Askew

Lieutenant Robinson said there were no fire-related instigators, which caused the pipe to over-pressurise.

“Just wear and tear, that’s all,” he said.

“The Gippsland Centre have called the maintenance people, and they have a crew already on their way.

“It is very important that it’s all repaired and working.”

Lieutenant Robinson praised the public and Gippsland Centre management for their response, commending all involved on their direction during the evacuation.

“The evacuation in the shopping centre worked very good, and people were indisposed for roughly 40 minutes,” he said.

Gippsland Centre manager Marcus Fraser was exceptionally pleased with the prompt response to the evacuation, telling the Gippsland Times that “everyone acted as directed”.

“It really was an amazing, orderly response from everyone, which is so pleasing,” Mr Fraser said.

“What happened is never ideal, but obviously, safety is everyone’s first priority, and we are certainly glad it wasn’t something more serious.

“We are sympathetic to Bakers Delight and will work with businesses to help them start trading again.”

Mr Fraser anticipated the Gippsland Centre would be operating as usual by that afternoon following an eventful morning.

For Bakers Delight owner Matt Stephenson, this would not be the case.

When Mr Stephenson thought it would be another regular old Thursday, he was very wrong.

It wouldn’t be another day of taunting coeliacs with the delectable smell of freshly baked bread; no, for Mr Stephenson, it would be a day of working with firefighters to ensure his flooded store was safe. It was a day of working with the Health Department and Gippsland Centre to figure out how to move forward.

“The water damage has been significant,” said Mr Stephenson.

“CFA believes that the sprinkler system went off without a fire, which obviously shouldn’t have happened, but if it’s designed to put out a fire, it was efficient at pouring large volumes of water.”

Gippsland Centre flooded entrance
The Gippsland Centre was evacuated after a fire-sprinkler pipe began sprouting water.

After the incident, Mr Fraser assured the fire sprinkler system was to regulation standard.

“The system is regularly serviced on a monthly basis,” said Mr Fraser.

“There will certainly be a prompt review into the pipes and sprinklers in the Bakers Delight area followed by a routine check of all the others in the centre.”