Laconia, NH – Sprinkler system helps to limit fire at county jail; Overheated generator was cause

A fire that broke out at the newly completed Belknap County Community Corrections Center last week may have caused as much as $100,000 in damaging, authorities report.  Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said an exhaust pipe from an emergency generator overheated during a load test, setting the surrounding plywood on fire. Workmen who had been performing diagnostic testing on the generator had been operating it at capacity over time when the fire started late Thursday morning.  Workers quickly called the fire department and deployed multiple fire extinguishers to help to slow the blaze that quickly extended from the generator room next to the sally port into the attic above, charring one bay of rafters.

Beattie credited the quick call for help coupled with the use of fire extinguishers and the building’s sprinkler system with collectively working to limit the spread of the fire and amount of damage.

“It was the proper pipe from the generator, but it looks like the whole generator overheated,” Beattie said.

Firefighters were already en route when the fire alarm was tripped and found a fire hydrant within 10 feet of where the first truck parked.

No inmates were in the section of the building where the fire occurred and neither the jail or the adjacent nursing home were impacted by the incident, according to Beattie. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters remained on scene for about three hours and had to cut away a section of the roof as well as an outside wall to assure it was completely extinguished. Initially estimates of damage were between $30,000 to $50,000 but Beattie said as a result of the sprinkler activation the generator was completely soaked and may likely end up having to be scrapped.

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