County to accept payment for damages from botched alarm call
Damages stemming from a 2013 incident in which an emergency chemical fire suppression release was triggered at the Columbia County Courthouse totaled $237,500.
A release of claims against Columbia River Fire and Rescue, along with Patriot Fire Protection Inc., MPD Systems Inc., Oregon Computer Power LLC, Fireaway Inc., and Ethos Project Management LLC, was set to be approved Wednesday by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
The agreement accepts $50,000 payment each from Patriot Fire, CRFR, MPD, and Oregon Computer Power, another $25,000 from Ethos, and $12,500 from Fireaway as payment for extensive damage to county computers and an HVAC system.
On July 26, 2013, fire responders from CRFR responded to the courthouse after receiving a call of a strange smell, with the possibility of equipment burning. Responders narrowed the smell to an equipment room with computers, servers and other equipment. When crews arrived, there was no fire, but one of the responders at the time, CRFR Division Chief Ron Youngberg, activated a button that released a fire suppressant called Stat-X, which dispersed a chemical throughout the building via the heating, ventilation and cooling system. The incident caused an estimated $317,000 to county electronic equipment, according to a lawsuit filed against the fire district and other parties in 2015.
"After being on scene for more than 30 minutes, without any change in conditions and without noticing any fire that needed suppression, defendant's Chief Youngberg pulled an alarm around 3:32 p.m. and activated the Stat-X chemical fire suppressant system located in the electrical room of the building while he and two other firefighters were still in the room," the initial complaint states.
Stat-X is designed to protect electronic equipment in the event of a fire, but the chemical ended up damaging much of the equipment when it was released, the county's legal complaint stated.
The smell that was initially reported was eventually traced back to a malfunctioning backup battery.
According to the legal document, the county agrees to release each of the parties from any future claims or counterclaims stemming from the 2013 incident.
"It is further understood and agreed that this settlement is the compromise of a disputed claim and that this agreement is not to be construed as an admission of liability of defendants," the release agreement states.
The $237,500 will be deposited into a trust account that will then be disbursed to
the county. Columbia County's initial lawsuit sought $390,106.