FRESNO, Calif. — An electrical fire wiped out power to two downtown businesses early Thursday morning, tripping the sprinkler system and causing a major flood.
The fire started around 3 a.m. in the electrical room inside of a building located at the corner of Van Ness and Fresno Streets. The eight story structure houses both the Fresno County Office of Education and Educational Employees Credit Union.
When firefighters arrived, they found hundreds of gallons of water spilling out onto the street through the front doors.
“Crews were able to access the interior of the structure, determined a sprinkler head had activated,” said Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Ron Stogdell. “In typical scenarios, it puts out about 15 to 30 gallons a minute. It was probably expelling for 10 to 15 minutes at least.”
Fresno County Office of Education facilities director Jeff Becker said an aging electrical panel maybe to blame for sparking the fire.
“The electrical panels are original to the building so it’s 1970’s vintage so we’ll be able to upgrade those at this point, but we’ll also might have a hard time finding some parts for them,” said Becker.
The outage forced about a hundred employees to be released or relocated, while restoration crews worked to remove about two inches of standing water from the first floor.
“Computers, phones, lights, air conditioning aren’t functioning at this point so we’ve relocated staff,” said Becker. “We’ve got people on the patio, in the lunch room.”
Kevin Kelley of Belfor Property Restoration said workers put down an anti-microbial solution to prevent mold from forming on the vinyl.
“We have about 3,500 to 4,000 square feet of the building affected so we had to extract the water with our equipment,” said Kevin Kelley of Belfor Property Restoration.
Just before noon, a backup generator was brought in to temporarily restore power until a more permanent fix can be made.
Becker said he’s grateful the sprinkler system worked as designed and no one was hurt. He said the power is expected to be back on time for workers to return to work Friday morning.