Warehouse repairs underway

Engineers, crews work to fix structural problems created by Nov. 19 collapse of floor

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter


photoOne of two warehouses used by Vancouver Warehouse & Distribution remains condemned after a floor of the building collapsed last month.

(/The Columbian)

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Construction workers are continuing to shore up a Vancouver warehouse after a floor partially collapsed last month.

Emergency crews were called about 2 p.m. Nov. 19, when 400,000 pounds of lead ingots fell through the main floor of Vancouver Warehouse & Distribution Co., 1101 W. 11th St.

In addition to compromising the building's structural integrity, the collapse created a hazardous materials situation. The lead fell atop 1,000 gallons of rubbing alcohol stored in the basement.

One man was treated for chemical exposure.

The warehouse remains temporarily unfit for occupancy, said City of Vancouver building official Sree Thirunagari, but engineers have developed a plan to save the building.

Joel Scott, the owner of the warehouse, said that the damage to the building was somewhat minimal. The 30-by-30-foot hole in the floor does, however, affect the integrity of the building's west wall.

In the six weeks since the floor collapsed, Thirunagari said significant work has been done to get the building back to working order.

The remaining lead ingots on the compromised upper-level floor have been removed, along with some of the chemicals stored in the immediate area below. The electrical and fire sprinkler systems have been partially restored and steel bracing has been installed to shore up the floor.

The work, Thirunagari said, began the day of the accident and hasn't stopped.

"There haven't been any delays along the way," he said.

The storage of the lead ingots, he said, "was way beyond the capacity of the floor."

But, he said, that is something that will be addressed later. No penalties have been assessed.

"As we start talking about opening up the occupancy of the building," Thirunagari said, "we'll be looking at having signs that clearly indicate the load capacity of the floor."

Thirunagari said that he anticipates the work of temporarily securing the building to be done within a few weeks. Work to permanently repair the wall and floor could begin in February.

Despite losing access to one of two warehouse buildings, Vancouver Warehouse & Distribution Co. owner Chuck Bower said business has remained steady.

"The people we do business with have been very, very supportive," Bower said. He said he has worked with many of his clients for 20 years or longer.

Bower said he has rented warehouse space at the Port of Vancouver and is using trailers for office space until repairs on the building are completed. The company continues to use the other warehouse on the lot.

"We're just going forward one step after the other," Bower said.