May 13, 2002
Thermal camera detects hidden fire at Kingsgate Ice Arena
by Jeanette Knutson
KINGSGATE -It came in as an automatic alarm and a single fire engine responded, said Woodinville Fire Marshal Joel Kuhnhenn of the May 7 fire at the Kingsgate Ice Arena, located at 14326 124th Ave. NE. When firemen detected no visible sign of fire, they tried to reset the alarm panel, but it continued to go into an alarm, said Kuhnhenn.
By that time, building occupants had re-entered the premises.
"Then one lady went into the women's locker room and smelled smoke," Kuhnhenn said. "So we re-evacuated the building."
Using a thermal imaging camera - Woodinville's Fire Department has one of these infrared cameras on each of its first-out units - firefighters were able to detect a hot spot between a concrete tilt-up wall and a concrete cinderblock wall.
Between the two walls a void space was created where plumbing pipes ran. The pipes were wrapped with heat tape, meant to insulate the pipes to keep them from freezing, but apparently the tape, which was plugged in and carried an electric current, deteriorated over the years and shorted out, causing a fire.
Firefighters broke open the cinderblock wall to get to the fire, which had gone up through the wall into the attic area.
It turned out to be a relatively small fire, encompassing 1,500 to 2,000 square feet of the 30,000 square foot ice area. But it had the potential to become something serious, said Kuhnhenn.
King County Fire Marshals who investigated the fire assessed damage at $10,000.
Units from Kirkland, Bothell and Woodinville responded to the second alarm.
There were no injuries.
The arena was closed for the remainder of the day but reopened for business the next day.
As a precaution, firefighters evacuated two adjacent businesses for a couple hours.
Kuhnhenn said, "Use of the infrared camera was integral to the suppression of the fire. It helped locate the fire."
And in so doing, said Public Information Officer Dave Leggett, firefighters were able to minimize the loss of property.
"This was an anomaly, a freak event," said Kuhnhenn. "I don't think it will happen again, but people have to realize heat tape can cause fires. At the very least, heat tape should be used where it can be visibly inspected and maintained."