Highland Building Didn’t Have Sprinkler System

(Memphis) Two business owners are trying to put the pieces back together after the devastating fire on Highland Ave. Sunday.

The fire burned down Signatures T-Shirts and destroyed $50,000 worth of inventory that belonged to the Peddler Bike Shop.

The building where the fire started didn’t have a sprinkler system.

Nowadays, new buildings are required to have sprinkler systems, but that rule doesn’t apply to buildings that went up before the 1960s.

In the pile of rubble, you can see the signs of what was there.

“I’m depressed but I’m dealing with it,” said Hal Mabray, owner of the Peddler Bike Shop.

Dozens of bicycles belonging to Hal Mabray and his Peddler Bike Shop were destroyed.

He has plenty of insurance but that won’t replace the classic, custom-made bike he’d given his son as a bar mitzvah present.

“It’s pretty much demolished. We are going to save some pieces of it as memorabilia.”

The fire ignited at Signatures-Shirt Shop Sunday and spread to the warehouse next door, where Mabray stores his bikes.

“According to the National Fire Protection Association, sprinkler systems have cut fire deaths in half and sometimes three-fourths because of that early suppression,” said Wayne Cooke, spokesperson for the Memphis Fire Department.

All new buildings are required to have sprinkler systems, but those built before the 1960s aren’t required to install them.

These Highland buildings went up in the 1920s.

From an old picture, you can see the t-shirt shop was once an Easy Way, and the Peddler Bike Shop was once a supermarket.

Mabray says retrofitting an old building to a have a sprinkler system can be expensive.

“If you are in retail and you were starting a small business, it’s hard to pay the rent let alone what a landlord would charge to remodel the store to have sprinkler system. Everything that goes up, someone’s got to pay for that.”

“Some systems it’s been said to cost one to five percent of the actual cost of that building,” said Cooke. “So it’s very low when you consider the effectiveness of a sprinkler system and what it does.”

The Memphis Fire Department recommends that all businesses and home owners install sprinkler systems to help minimize the impact of a fire.

As for Hal, he’s learned how quickly an untamed fire can take destroy history and take a cyclist’s best friend.

“I lost my old gray mare in there but I’ve got other bikes to ride so I’ll keep peddling.”

Despite the building not having a sprinkler system, it did have a working smoke detector and the Memphis Fire Department says the building was inspected and up to code.