CLEARFIELD – The four employees who battled a rooftop electrical fire on Election Day at the Clearfield County Courthouse Annex building were recognized at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting.
The fire was first observed by Veterans Affairs Director Betina Nicklas, who reported it to security. The Clearfield Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at 10:42 a.m. May 16.
Jim Luce and Barry Angstadt, maintenance department personnel, and Adam Curry, IT director, assisted with extinguishing the fire from the rooftop.
However, the fire spread from the roof into the third-floor ceiling of the county’s Domestic Relation’s Office. From inside DRO, Rick Redden, director, extinguished the ceiling tiles on fire.
According to a previous GANT News report, the fire was electrical in nature and started for unknown reasons. A new compressor was installed in the air conditioning condensing unit earlier that day.
Then, the old compressor was turned on for the first time in about a week. Approximately one-and-a-half hours later, county personnel were alerted of a problem.
The county’s annex building was evacuated, but employees of offices on the first- and second-floor were later permitted back inside and to return to work.
The fire, however, closed the DRO office, located on the annex’s third floor, until the morning of May 23.
On Tuesday the commissioners, along with John Sallade, managing director/insurance programs, for the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, recognized the employees for thinking and acting quickly.
“The next day, our claims rep was up to look at the situation. When she came back, she said to me, ‘you know this could have been much, much worse,’” he said.
According to Sallade, they’ve seen fires before in county buildings. He said oftentimes during a fire, people are interested in leaving, and they are walking by fire alarms and extinguishers without using them.
He said it was really remarkable that the county had four employees who grabbed fire extinguishers and battled the fire. He said the fire could have easily spread downward into the annex building and even into the historic courthouse.
Sallade estimated that the fire caused $250,000 in damages, which was mostly from smoke and water. He pointed out that if the annex had become “totally involved,” its replacement value was probably $4 million or more.
At the time of the fire, the building was occupied, and he commended Sheriff Deputy Mark Coudriet for leading the evacuation efforts. He said Coudriet did a walk-through of the building after to make sure everyone had gotten out and was safe.
Sallade also thanked Chief George Proud and Deputy Chief John Williams for the quick response of the fire department.
On behalf of PCORP, a CCAP program, he presented plaques to the four employees and a contribution of $1,000 to Proud and Williams for the fire department.
“I don’t think folks realize how dangerous of a situation they found themselves in,” said Commissioner John Sobel. “Rick arranged to have the fire alarm pulled first; he never did leave the third floor and fought the fire.
“The other three guys climbed out onto the roof and fought it … It was not easy, it was not fast and it was a lot of work with those heavy fire extinguishers.
“If that fire had been out of control and they would have needed to get out of there, it wouldn’t have been easy or quick.”
Sobel also thanked Clearfield Borough Police chief Vincent McGinnis. He said upon arrival, McGinnis went inside the annex and up to the third-floor, exposing himself.
“It really shows the calm thinking in a crisis situation,” added Commissioner Mark. B. McCracken. “…. Everyone came together so that it wasn’t a tragedy that day.”