Quincy, IL – Fire in pool pump room at community center extinguished by sprinkler system

A chemical fire Friday that led to a temporary evacuation of the Kroc Center was the first fire in the building’s six-year history. An automatic fire alarm went off around 9:30 a.m. at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, 405 Vermont, and employees immediately began evacuating patrons as a precaution. When the fire was confirmed, the automatic alarm was upgraded to a general alarm and multiple fire trucks responded.

“Every time we show up, and we see that a proper evacuation has taken place, it takes a lot off our shoulders,” said Quincy Fire Department Capt. Mark Bigelow. “Then we get down to the business of extinguishing the fire and controlling it.” The fire, believed to be chemical in nature, broke out in a pump room near the swimming pool area, Bigelow said. The cause is still being investigated, but Bigelow said construction equipment in the pump room, like propane tanks, may have been involved. No construction was being done at the time.

Bigelow said damage will likely be minimal. Most of the equipment in the pump room is designed for moisture, he said. The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler. “Another win for automatic sprinkler systems,” Bigelow said. No injuries were reported.

Carolyn Carpenter, Kroc Center marketing manager, said the facility regularly practices fire drills with its employees.

Several dozen people were left outside for about 30 minutes in the single-digit temperatures because of the evacuation. Staff members began transporting some patrons to the Salvation Army Family Store, which is used as a warming center. Patrons who were evacuated from the pool were outside in swimsuits and shoeless. Staff members began loading them into vehicles and handing out blankets and socks.

“Everybody here did an outstanding job,” Bigelow said.

As soon as firefighters cleared the building, patrons were allowed to return but remained in the Kroc Center’s Worship Theatre while the investigation was conducted.

Bigelow said that while the department has responded to the Kroc Center many times for false alarms, he believes this was the first actual fire.