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News / Clark County News

Plans begin in Grove Field’s ashes

Port of C-W will begin consultation with an architect next week

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter
Published: January 6, 2015, 4:00pm
2 Photos
Jeramy Wilcox, project manager with the port of Camas-Washougal, looks at the small pile of refuse that survived the fire that destroyed 10 hangar bays Oct.
Jeramy Wilcox, project manager with the port of Camas-Washougal, looks at the small pile of refuse that survived the fire that destroyed 10 hangar bays Oct. 6 at Grove Field in Camas. Photo Gallery

Three months after a fire tore through a row of hangars at Grove Field, the small Camas airport looks much emptier.

Today, the ground where the decades-old hangars once stood is a bare gravel lot waiting for new life. The real work begins next week, as Jeramy Wilcox, a capital projects manager with the Port of Camas-Washougal, plans to meet with an architect to start hashing out cost projections and a timeline for replacing C-Row, the 10-hangar building that was lost Oct. 6.

Before the fire, Grove Field had 79 hangars, Wilcox said. C-Row was an aging building with a wooden frame and a sheet metal exterior. It was connected to D-Row — another old building full of small planes — and the two were separated only by a thin fire wall.

Firefighters managed to put out the flames before they could consume D-Row. In the aftermath, C-Row was a total loss. D-Row survived mostly intact, despite a blackened west-facing wall.

As Wilcox scanned the site Monday afternoon, he walked to the west end of the lot and pointed out the only remains from the blaze.

“These are a couple of engines and one framework from one of the aircraft,” said Wilcox, who’s taking the lead on replacing the hangars at the port-owned property. “The rest of it was all melted, and there was nothing to salvage.”

The blaze rose dozens of feet into the air, and explosions rocked the building as the flames ignited the fuel from several planes and cars in each hangar. In all, the building and its contents — eight small planes and a few sports cars — were a total loss.

Investigators pinpointed the origin of the fire to a particular hangar, but they couldn’t determine the cause. Shortly after the fire, they estimated the cost of the damage at nearly $1 million.

“I know one of the tenants had an airplane and a couple of 1966 vintage Porsches,” Wilcox said.

East County Fire & Rescue, which has a station just hundreds of feet away, was on scene a few minutes after the fire broke out. But there was little they could do, aside from keeping the flames from spreading to other buildings, Wilcox said.

“The fire was already so hot, and there were explosions taking place as the fire got into each hangar,” he said. “I mean, they did a great job, as far as I’m concerned.”

Ideas for improvement

The new building will be designed with a number of additional fire walls, and likely some smoke and heat detectors, he said.

It’ll be built entirely out of steel, said David Ripp, the port’s executive director. And instead of replacing all 10 hangars, Ripp plans to build eight to leave more space between the buildings.

Ripp expects to break ground this spring, and he hopes the new building will be finished by August.

The port also plans to demolish Grove Field’s maintenance building Monday and eventually replace it with a new building more than twice the size. The current building is about 70 years old, Ripp said, and half its roof was torn off in the Veterans Day windstorm that swept across Clark County.

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Columbian Small Cities Reporter