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Washington County Technical High evacuated after alarm sounds

Alarm went off when temperature in a paint booth got too high; no one hurt

November 29, 2012
  • Firefighters inspected a paint booth at the Washington County Technical High School Thursday afternoon after responding to a call for a fire in the building.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Washington County Technical High School was evacuated Thursday afternoon after an alarm went off in the collision repair program’s paint booth, according to Washington County Emergency Services.

No one was injured in the incident at the 50 W. Oak Ridge Drive building, a 911 dispatcher said.

The alarm was reported Thursday at 2:26 p.m., according to the 911 dispatch center.

The alarm went off when the temperature in the paint booth got too high, said Brian Pile, battalion chief of the Hagerstown Fire Department.

“The heater supplies heat to the paint booth to bake the parts. It’s supposed to be hot in there,” Pile said. “Apparently, it got a little too hot, which triggered the sprinkler system.”

The incident was under investigation, but Pile said it appeared the temperature in the paint booth rose due to a malfunction, which set the sprinkler system off.

“(The paint booth) normally runs, I believe, around 140 degrees, and the sprinkler head that went off is rated at 212 (degrees),” Pile said. “So it was considerably hotter in there than what it’s supposed to be. That’s what set the alarm off.”

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Pile said the situation was “pretty much under control” when firefighters arrived at the scene. He said students were able to shut down the paint booth, which stopped the heat source and started to cool the room.

“There were students in. We were probably, at the time, 15 to 20 minutes away from classes starting to depart, but there were still students working,” Pile said. “They were working with torches, plasma cutters and things like that. So it’s kind of an atmosphere where there’s somewhat of a smoky atmosphere to begin with, but this got worse than what it normally was, and that’s what alerted them that they had a problem.”

Students and staff were allowed to return to the building Thursday before 2:50 p.m., school system spokesman Richard Wright said.

— Julie E. Greene and Dustin Lawyer

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