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Alarm system repaired after fire officials found it to be non-functioning after crews responded to small blaze Friday

PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA RIVER FIRE AND RESCUE - Columbia River Fire and Rescue crews responded to a small commerical fire at Motel 6 on Friday afternoon. After responding to the call, firefighters discovered the building's alarm system was not functioning properly. UPDATED 12/14/17: A motel in St. Helens was on a 24-hour fire watch last weekend after firefighters discovered alarm activation systems in the building were not working.

Columbia River Fire and Rescue crews were dispatched to Motel 6, 535 Columbia River Highway, on Friday afternoon at 1:38 p.m. when a fire started on a second-floor walkway of the building.

The Dec. 8 fire broke out when a discarded cigarette butt landed between the second-floor concrete walkway and a soffit, according to information from CRFR Division Chief Ian O'Connor.

Residents at the site contained the fire using a garden hose, O'Connor said. The Motel 6 residents also discovered the building's pull-station alarms and detection systems were not working at the time of the fire.

"A resident pulled the closest alarm but it did not activate," O'Connor stated in an email to the Spotlight. "We tested other alarms throughout the building and found the entire system to be not working."

Scappoose Fire District Division Chief and Fire Marshal Jeff Pricher worked with the building owner to fix the system, O'Connor explained. The building was operating under a 24-hour fire watch until Monday night, Dec. 11, when Pricher said he inspected the building and the fire alarm system was back in working order.

A fire watch requires two people to be on site — one monitoring the building's common areas to look for fire and the other positioned near a switch to activate the alarm system. The fire district and the building owner contractually agree to follow the procedures until the alarm system is fully repaired, O'Connor explained.

Failure to maintain the watch could have resulted in an order to vacate the building. Pricher said the activity logs were audited daily by fire officials during the three-day period to make sure they were properly maintained.

The motel, which previously operated at America's Value Village Inn, was sold to new owners in September and now operates as a Motel 6. Pricher said neither the owners of the building nor the fire district were aware that manual pull stations throughout the building did not work until they responded to the call last week.

Fire officials recently worked with property owners at Woodland Trails Apartments in St. Helens to remedy a similar situation, Pricher added, but that fire watch period lasted months while the building underwent a remodel.

Pricher said the fire district will not be issuing a citation in this instance because of the recent transaction and the quick willingness of the property owner to fix the system.

"Because of the rather short time between the purchase of this property and when this incident occurred we are allowing a bit of latitude for the property owner due to their compliance and swift action when notified of the deficiency," Pricher stated. "It is the goal of the fire district and the fire code to make reasonable accommodations to keep our businesses open and operational with the priority of maintaining the safety of the residents and guests."

After the fire, one person was evaluated for smoke inhalation as a result, but was not transported to the hospital. Three people who lived in two separate units at the motel, which offers short- and long-term residency, were displaced and provided temporary housing, O'Connor said.

Editor's note: The motel, which previously operated at America's Value Village Inn, was sold to new owners in September and now operates as a Motel 6.

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