Lightning apparently causes small fire at College Place
A couple of Lewis-Clark State College students could find themselves temporarily living in the Presidentís House after a lightning storm on Monday night apparently caused a fire that damaged three rooms at College Place, a private housing dormitory used by LCSC students.
After an inspection by fire department officials Tuesday, lightning seemed to be the only explanation for the cause of the small fire, which caused an unknown amount of damage to College Place, a structure owned by McCann Limited Partnership and located on Fourth Street in Lewiston across the street from the LCSC campus.
Insurance adjusters from Spokane are scheduled to tour College Place on Wednesday and will determine the financial amount of damage caused to the structure, which cost $2.8 million to build and was finished in 2006.
Matt Graves, LCSCís Physical Plant director, and Tim Baerlocher, Maintenance Supervisor for the Physical Plant, discovered smoke in College Place on Monday night during an inspection of buildings on campus after a two-hour lightning storm hit the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. The two removed an access panel and discovered thick smoke and called the fire department. When fire official arrived, flames were visible, but were quickly extinguished.
Graves said Tuesday that it appears lightning struck the roof of the building and caused increased electrical current to run through wires in building and eventually melt the ground wires and also melt insulation on the wires, which started the fire. Three suites in the building were damaged and the ceilings in all three were removed to make sure the fire was out, Graves said.
Also, a pipe on the fire sprinkling system melted and other small damage was caused by the lightning strike and fire.
Graves said inspectors will check the building on Wednesday before power is restored and itís impossible to tell if there is more damage until then. He said the best case-scenario is that workers are given the green light Wednesday to make the necessary repairs so that the rest of the building outside of the three suites would be functional late Wednesday, allowing students to move in. He said itís too early to tell how soon the three suites can be repaired.
LCSC begins classes on Monday and students already have been arriving on campus. Two residence assistants and one tenant had moved into the building prior to the fire, but none of the three lived in the suites that were damaged.
LCSC officials said they will find temporary housing for tenants until the three suites can be repaired. LCSC President Dene Thomas offered to house a couple of students at the Presidentís House on campus and Talkington Hall could also be used as a temporary housing area.
Smoke also was reported at the LCSC Library on Tuesday morning, but it was from a fan motor that burned out. The building was briefly evacuated before the problem was discovered. The building resumed normal hours within minutes Tuesday morning.