CLARION – “We had a tragedy, as everyone well knows, our building caught fire. We want to acknowledge and thank the first responders...for getting it out so soon.”
With these words, Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan began his report on the fire and subsequent damages sustained by the county office building along North Sixth Avenue in Clarion. The recently purchased building, which houses the joint office of the Clarion County Probation Department and District Judge Duane Quinn, caught fire on Thursday, Sept. 5 at approximately 5:40 p.m.
Although the official cause of the blaze is pending an investigation by the state police Fire Marshal, Tharan said on Tuesday morning that from all video accounts, it appears that an outside “cigarette pot” started the blaze.
Tharan said that while the full extent of the damage is not yet known, it appears that the front entryway, both public bathrooms and both office waiting rooms were destroyed.
“The fire was so intense that it just blew out the front doors, melted the aluminum frames, [but] was contained to the foyer and public areas,” he said, noting that the building’s construction prevented the fire from moving to other parts of the building such as the attic or the district courtroom. “[The building’s] construction kept it from being a total loss.”
Tharan mentioned a county ordinance that prohibits smoking within 40 feet of a building.
“I don’t ever want to see one of those smoking pots anywhere near a building again,” he said, adding that the county may have to revisit its smoking policy.
As for the county services displaced by the fire, both the probation and district judge’s offices are operating temporarily out of the second floor lobby of the Clarion County Courthouse and District Judge Tim Schill’s office in Shippenville respectively. Tharan said the probation department hopes to move their facilities to the back part of the damaged building by the end of next week.
“The front [entrance] will probably not be operational for two to three months because of the damage out there,” he said.
As a follow-up to the report, Tharan and fellow commissioners Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley, during their Sept. 10 meeting, approved an emergency declaration stating that “the damage [from the fire] was sufficient to require immediate restoration and repair work...to protect the property from further exposure and damage, remove dangerous conditions created by the fire and return the building to serviceable condition.”
According to the declaration, county officials contracted Service Master by Bell to start clean-up efforts, which include the removal of drywall and insulation and a thorough cleaning of the entire building due to excessive smoke damage.
Tharan concluded the report by thanking the specific groups for their rapid response to the scene the evening of the fire. They included Limestone Township and Clarion fire departments, as well as the Clarion Borough Police Department, Clarion University Police Department and Clarion Hospital EMS.
He also praised the county’s IT department for its quick action in reconnecting computers and phones at the temporary office locations, as well as the maintenance department for staying overnight at the scene to watch for any signs of rekindling.
“The fire departments did a fantastic job in getting the fire out for as hot as it was burning,” Tharan said.
- The commissioners approved Resolution No. 19 which authorizes the submission of an application for a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to fund activities associated with the Clarion Hospital Emergency Room renovation and addition project.
- County officials approved the purchase of five new seven-passenger transportation vehicles and one wheelchair van at a total cost of $328,415 pending legal review.
• After the salary board created temporary jobs of part-time interim director of central accounting and full-time interim human services fiscal director, the commissioners repositioned Rose Logue and Sandy Ion respectively to fill the positions.
Logue was hired at a rate of $25.42 per hour, and Ion was hired at a salary of $45,100. Both positions are effective Sept. 9 through Jan. 31, 2020.