Old City church tests external fire protection sprinkler system

John McDevitt
April 17, 2019 - 4:59 pm
One of the oldest original structures in the nation, Christ Church in Old City, is in need of serious preservation work to its steeple, and fundraising efforts are underway.

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, Christ Church in Old City tested its steeple's external sprinkler system. 

It might have seemed like it was raining at Christ Church for passersby on Wednesday, but it was the deluge exterior fire prevention system being tested on the steeple of the 18th century church, where some of our forefathers like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were congregants.  

With scaffolding soon to go up for summer restoration work, what happened in Paris to Notre Dame Cathedral is very much on the mind of church leaders.  

"Oh it sobered us all up," said the reverend Timothy Safford, the church's rector. 

In the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, Christ Church in Old City tested its steeple's external sprinkler system.
Courtesy of Christ Church

"Anytime you are doing work on your church, you are hypervigilant of anything that could go wrong. Any rag that has been left behind, anything that has been left plugged in. It's a very frightening prospect and you got to do everything you can to protect yourself," he said. 

Some sprinkler heads, some dating back 25 years, are expected to be switched out.

The steeple, standing nearly 200 feet in the air, caught on fire once before in 1908 because of a lightening strike.

"And miraculously, the thunder storm that accompanied the lightening blast extinguished the fire before too much fire, before too much damage could be made,"  Safford said. 

He says that was the inspiration to create a deluge sprinkler system in the Steeple on Wednesday.