UPDATE: Suspicious packages at fair not a threat

Off-duty Sheriff's deputies are on scene at fairgrounds

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

Published:

Updated: August 3, 2012, 8:43 PM

 
photoA Clark County Sheriff's deputy patrols the Clark County Fair on Friday. The sheriff's office provides deputies to work at the event on their days off. The fair pays their overtime.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo
photo Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Kevin Allais patrols at the Clark County Fair on Friday.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo
photoClark County Sheriff's deputies and a member of the Metro Bomb Squad clean up after investigating two suspicious packages at the Clark County Fair on Friday.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

When officials received reports Friday morning of two capped pipes lying near the east entrance to the Clark County Fair, help was already on scene.

That's because some firefighters, police and 911 dispatchers pick up overtime shifts at the fair on their days off. The fair foots the bill.

Detective Sgt. Kevin Allais and other sheriff's deputies were able to jump into action when the pipes were discovered around 8:40 a.m. The lower parking lots were closed, the area around the items was marked off with police tape and C-Tran buses were re-routed to another entrance.

"The Clark County Fair and law enforcement personnel took all precautions necessary to ensure public safety was upheld," fair manager John Morrison said in a statement.

Technicians with the Metro Bomb Squad responded to the fairgrounds, disrupted the devices (two capped pipes) and determined they weren't a threat, Morrison said.

During the investigation, traffic on Interstate 5 northbound was at a standstill for about a mile south of the 179th Street exit, said Trooper Ryan Tanner, state patrol spokesman.

Deputies reopened the blue gate and some parking lot access around 10:30 a.m. Morrison guessed most people at the fair probably didn't even know there was a bomb scare.

Typically, the fair shift is a bit more relaxed.

"A lot of it is (being) a visible presence, a visible (crime) deterrent," said Cmdr. Keith Kilian. It's also a good chance for deputies to interact with the public. For many people, it's their first chance to interact with police, Kilian said.

There is the occasional missing child and a few cases of theft. Fights aren't unheard of. But "most of the people are genuinely out there to have a good time," he said.

Deputies communicate with a 911 dispatcher on site, who operates a channel specifically for law enforcement and fire personnel at the fair.

"It's a pretty well-oiled machine," fair manager Morrison said.

"The fair is kind of like its own little city," Kilian said. There will be 25,000 to 30,000 people in attendance during the day. "We've got to staff accordingly," he said.

Fire District 6 also sends firefighter/EMTs and paramedics to work the fair, said Peter Loeb, district spokesman. There are 11 volunteers working during the day and one paid person on overtime (paid for by the fair). They frequently deal with bee stings and heat exhaustion but have seen heart attacks and virtually anything else they deal with on a regular shift, he said.

Zachary Kaufman of The Columbian contributed to this report.