Van burns in Vancouvercenter parking garage

Massive underground garage fills with smoke

By Craig Brown and Paul Suarez

Published:

Updated: September 21, 2012, 2:49 PM

 
photoFire rigs block Columbia Street about 12:30 today as firefighters battle a vehicle fire in the parking garage below Vancouvercenter.

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photoFirefighters roll up their hoses after extinguishing a vehicle fire in the underground garage at Vancouvercenter today.

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A lunch-hour fire today destroyed a van in the parking garage beneath Vancouvercenter, one of the largest real estate developments downtown, attracting a crowd of onlookers and inconveniencing parking customers.

The fire was reported at 12:35 p.m. at the center, 701 Columbia St.

According to Chris Moen of the Vancouver Fire Department, a Volkswagen van parked in the 795-space underground garage caught fire.

The garage has a sprinkler system, which was activated, and the fire did not spread. But access and ventilation are major issues in the underground parking structure, which is by far the largest in Clark County. It offers both public parking and parking for resident and office tenants.

Today, the garage was full of cars driven by several hundred people attending the Council for the Homeless luncheon at the nearby Hilton Vancouver Washington. Unable to retrieve their vehicles, the luncheon guests stood on the corner at Sixth and Columbia as firefighters worked. They were finally able to begin reclaiming their vehicles before 2 p.m.

The van was parked in the P1 level, toward the northwest corner of the complex.

Columbia Street is closed northbound across from Esther Short Park while firefighters work. Firefighters have also closed Sixth Street between Columbia and Washington streets, where the main entrance to the garage is located.

Vancouvercenter occupies two square blocks across from the popular downtown park. Opened in 2003 on the site of the old Lucky Lager brewery, it consists of an office tower and two condominium towers above the underground garage. The buildings experienced some light smoke from the fire, but did not lose power or have any fire damage.

Approximately 26 firefighters and a half dozen fire rigs are on the scene, from the Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Fire District 6.

At 1:20 p.m. firefighters were ventilating the garage and had extinguished the fire, Moen said.