Firefighters in Spokane, WA recently responded to a fire in a construction contractor’s storage trailer at the Avista Corporation’s main corporate campus property.  The first-arriving firefighters reported finding the construction trailer fully involved with fire.  They extinguished the fire with several hose lines.  The trailer and its contents were severely damaged and could not be salvaged.

The trailer was owned by a construction contractor doing some construction work on site, which was nearing completion according to one construction contractor employee interviewed by the fire department.  According to this employee, the trailer was used to store tools and supplies owned by the construction contractor and their employees.  Electric power was provided to the trailer, and an electric space heater was located inside and was operating at the time of the fire.

The fire department’s origin and cause investigator located the source of ignition to be in very close proximity to a gasoline-powered rotary saw.  The investigator learned that a contractor employee had been using the saw a short time before the fire began, and had placed the saw back inside the trailer before leaving the site to do some errands.

The physical evidence led the origin and cause investigator to conclude that the fire was started by hot components on this saw coming into contact with adjacent combustible materials, possibly even gasoline from the saw that may have leaked out.  Property damage was estimated to be in excess of $35,000.

This fire incident happened not long after a propane tank explosion in a contractor’s cargo container in Colorado at a food manufacturing plant that was also under construction. Both incidents are important reminders that facilities of all types, while under construction, are at a greater risk of fire, as a wider variety of ignition sources and combustible materials become more prevalent and are more challenging to manage safely. Look for a future blog post detailing lessons learned from fire safety issues that occur in contractor sheds and construction work areas.