Camas library reopens after ‘small spark of a fire’ Friday night

Heavy odors from electrical panel fire caused library to close all day Saturday

The Camas Public Library closed unexpectedly Saturday, Dec. 14, after a small fire on the library’s second floor Friday night caused heavy odors to waft through the building. 

“We had a small spark of a fire when an electrical panel blew, and we lost power Friday night,” said library director Connie Urquhart. “The fire department came and determined it was safe, but the (fire) caused such a heavy smell in the air, we decided it was not safe for patrons on Saturday.” 

Camas-Washougal Fire Department (CWFD) Battalion Chief Allen Wolk said he walked across Northeast Fourth Avenue from CWFD’s downtown Camas-based Station 41 Friday night after the library’s smoke alarm went off. 

“I just walked over there because the other guys were out on a call,” Wolk said. “It looked like a relay for the high voltage (where it) comes in and converts to low voltage (sparked) and caught two other relays. It was a very small (fire) with a tiny bit of flame.”

Wolk found smoke and figured out the cause was coming from a mechanical room. 

“We shut off all the power,” he said. “There were three burned-up relays and it was arcing.” 

Urquhart said the library was closed to the public, but was having a games night when the small fire occurred. 

“It was good that we had staff in the building, so they could expedite getting me and staff (to the library),” Urquhart said. “We had one of our regular electricians out late on Friday night to look at it. The panel was part of the original build in 2002, so maybe it was just an age thing.”
Power has since been restored to the library, the smell has dissipated and the library is open to the public again. Urquhart said the library will likely need to replace the electrical panel in the new year.

Wolk said the fire could have been worse, and that this is one of those times that show the value of smoke detectors. 

“Most of the time (smoke detector calls) are false alarms, but there’s always a time when it’s not,” Wolk said.

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