Smoke from small fire causes $2 million damage at Lehi Costco

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2 2013 9:41 p.m. MST

LEHI — Though flames from a small fire in a Costco Tuesday night didn't burn much, damage from smoke trapped in the warehouse totals near $2 million. 

Rick Howard, Battalion Chief with the Lehi Fire Department, said the fire appears to have originated in a display of electrical items, burning four pallets and product packaging, but the flames didn't spread. The fire's cause is still under investigation.

Firefighters were first alerted to the problem by a single waterflow alarm just before 10 p.m. Tuesday night at the Costco near 198 N. 1200 East. Thinking it was a malfuncitoning sprinkler head, a problem they have encountered in the past, Howard said only one team responded.

Upon arriving, firefighters detected a small amount of smoke outside the building and called for backup. Howard said he arrived within minutes of the call.

"When I got there they were rolling up the big roll-up door," he said. "The whole building was charged with smoke, which is a pretty phenomenal thing when you think about the size of Costco."

Water from the store's fire suppression system had already extinguished the fire, but the vents in the system failed to open, trapping the smoke inside. Howard said he believes the vents failed to open because there were no vents close enough to the fire to be triggered by the heat of the flames.

Costco is estimating the cost of smoke and water damage could exceed $2 million, Howard said.

The department's residential fans for venting smoke out of a home were deployed, but to little avail. Instead, Utah County's "Super Vac," which is so large it is carried on a trailer, was brought in to help clear the warehouse and fire crews opened the building's vents manually.

"(Smoke) was just pouring out like it was an active fire," Howard said. "It wasn't a general 'house fire burn' smell. It was kind of an odd fire smell that sticks in your nose."

Costco is currently closed for cleanup, but the store hopes to open on Friday, Howard said.

Contributing: Dave Cawley 

McKenzie Romero

Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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