The Sterling Post Office was evacuated Thursday afternoon due to a fire in the wall.
Central Emergency Services responded to the fire. Safety Officer Brad Nelson said the department put the fire out in a matter of seconds, once it was located in a utility room.
“The tricky part was finding it,” he said.
When the CES crew arrived, they could smell the smoke but couldn’t see a fire, Nelson said. They had to use thermal imaging cameras and open up the wall to find the fire. That took about 5 to 10 minutes, Nelson said.
The 2-by-4s in the wall showed significant damage, but the exact duration of the fire is unknown.
“It’s a good thing they called us,” Nelson said.
The fire was most likely the result of an effort to thaw pipes with a heat gun, according to CES’ investigation.
Nelson said the plumber had been working in the building around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. He stayed on-scene to monitor for a fire, but left before it broke out. The fire call came in after noon.
With the current freeze, Nelson said anyone thawing pipes should be cautious when using heat near combustibles. He also recommended that people follow the manufacturer’s instructions when operating blow torches, heat tape or other devices.
“Be cognisant of the area and the surroundings,” he said.
Information from the United States Postal Service on the fire and frozen pipes was not immediately available.
Nelson said the post office made the right choice in evacuating the building as soon as they smelled smoke. It’s better to get out and call the fire department immediately than wait and have a larger burn, he said.
“They smelled it; they called it,” Nelson said. “We were able to catch it quick.”
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.