PROVIDENCE — Firefighters responding to multiple alarms at the Omni Providence Hotel on Wednesday night spent most of their time as elevator operators.

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PROVIDENCE — Firefighters responding to multiple alarms at the Omni Providence Hotel on Wednesday night spent most of their time as elevator operators.

Steam released by a water heater that malfunctioned on the hotel's fourth floor activated a sprinkler at about 8:15 p.m., Battalion Chief Jay Viens said. Multiple fire detectors got wet and sounded alarms. They also sent alarms to the Fire Department. Firefighters arrived, located the problem and could have left after resetting the detectors, but the detectors wouldn't reset.

Elevators automatically shut down during a fire, so until the detectors were cleared, the elevators wouldn't work. And without the elevators, about 150 people in the lobby, many of them veterans with disabilities attending an adaptive sports clinic this week, would not be able to return to their rooms.

"We can take control of the elevators with keys," Viens said, "but because we couldn't reset the system, we probably moved between 100 to 200 people from the lobby" to their floors.

The hotel had not been evacuated, he said, although guests who heard alarms on the fourth and fifth floors might have left their rooms. In high-rise buildings where there's no sign of fire, Viens said, guests are advised to shelter in place. But at the Omni on Wednesday night, the lobby was full of guests returning from restaurants and unable to retire to their rooms.

The alarm company arrived, reset the alarms and restored the elevators to normal operation, allowing firefighters to leave by 9:45 p.m., V‪iens said.

Attendees who arrived by bus to the Veterans Summer Sports Clinic are staying at the Omni. The event, organized by the VA Providence Medical Center, the VA Boston Health Care System and the VA New England Healthcare System, offers adaptive cycling, kayaking and golf around the state.

— dnaylor@providencejournal.com

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On Twitter: @donita22