A fast-moving fire gutted a large hangar at Grove Field in Camas Monday night, destroying an estimated 14 hangar bays within the E Hangar and an undetermined number of small aircraft parked inside, along with other contents.
All available fire units in east Clark County were summoned to the fire, at 632 N.E. 267th Ave. The first alarm was sounded at 10:22 p.m. and a second alarm was called 26 minutes later.
The first units arrived in about two minutes from a fire station that is located on the southeast corner of the airfield property. Nobody was reported inside the hangar at the time of the fire, said David Ripp, executive director of the Port of Camas-Washougal. The port owns the Grove Field airport.
The fire was knocked down in less than an hour. It was contained on the east side by a fire wall, but flames spread rapidly to the west, according to emergency radio traffic monitored at The Columbian. Some explosions also were reported by firefighters.
The E Hangar is a long, skinny building with metal siding over wooden frames. It is arranged in what pilots call a T style, where T-shaped bays are positioned back-to-back to accommodate numerous small aircraft.
Grove Field leases hangars to private pilots and has more than 70 hangar bays on site. The airfield is not hooked up to the city of Camas’ water line, but the property has its own fire suppression system that consists of multiple tanks and a well that keeps the tanks full at all times, said Steve Klopman, maintenance supervisor at the port.
Establishing an adequate water supply was an issue early in the fire, according to emergency radio traffic. By 10:55 p.m. firefighters had tapped into the large water supply from a hydrant.
Ten minutes later, the fire was nearly under control.
As the fire burned, the long south wall of the hangar became precarious, causing firefighters to take precautions while they worked to extinguish hot spots.
The airport was closed to traffic as firefighters worked.
Firefighters from the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, East County Fire & Rescue, and the Vancouver Fire Department responded. Clark Public Utilities was summoned to deal with downed power lines.
There is no word yet as to the cause of the fire. Because of the amount of damage the blaze caused, a fire marshal will investigate.
Ripp said the port conducts annual fire inspections at the hangars every year and lets aircraft owners know if they are out of compliance with any fire codes. From the scene Monday night, he was at work delivering news of the fire to some of the airfield’s tenants.
“I’ve been on and off the phone with a few of them,” Ripp said.
Klopman noted that local firefighters have been trained on the airfield’s fire suppression system.
“I think they did a good job of not letting it spread to other hangars,” Klopman said.