by Andrea Gardner
The La Verne Fire Department (LVFD) received an alarm at 5:02 Wednesday evening to respond to a possible fire on the corner of First and D Streets, the site of the ULV Art Building.
According to Raffi Zinzalian, ULV Graphics manager, Maintenance was installing and welding water pipes earlier in the day.
Ron Sillo of LVFD said Maintenance was “sweating copper fittings using a torch.”
“We smelled an odor while he [Maintenance worker Dorian Logue] was welding during the day. After he left, the odor became stronger.”
According to public safety officer Tom Erickson, a burning ember from the welding equipment apparently remained in the building’s wood frame.
When smoke and a red spark became visible to Zinzalian, he doused the area with a fire extinguisher and called LVFD. He said that a fire in the Art Building would be especially dangerous because of the chemicals and paper that are stored there. There is an estimated $40,000 worth of paper in the building.
“They [Maintenance] have to be more careful,” said Zinzalian. He said a similar accident also occurred four years ago.
LVFD responded to the call with a truck, engine and ambulance. Upon arrival, they were informed that the problem was resolved, however they still responded Code Three, meaning they assumed that there was a fire in progress. They evacuated the building, and entered with firefighting equipment.
Captain Mike Thompson made entry into the building and confirmed that a fire did not exist, though there was smoke.
“Water lines were being put in. Soldering caused the material around to heat up, smolder, and smoke. All we could do was smell a little bit of smoke,” he said.
The ceiling of the area is framed with cylotex, a material that will not burn, but rather smolder and smoke, which is why it was so difficult to detect the problem.
According to Brian Worley, director of facilities management, his department will be “pursuing an after-the-fact analysis of what happened to insure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Damage to the building was minimal, although $500 worth of paper was lost due to damage from the fire extinguisher.