A new fire detection system is scheduled to be activated next week at the Spokane County Juvenile Justice Center – days after a blaze forced the building’s evacuation for the second time in less than a year.
Neither Saturday’s fire, which was confined to a laundry room, nor an earlier one that caused significant damage to the probation department, was discovered until visitors smelled smoke.
Until the new system is ready for use, the only smoke alarms in the building are in cells in the juvenile jail; the rest of the building has fire alarms that can be activated only by people pulling them.
The new system, which cost $140,000, will be active in the whole building and includes heat and smoke detectors, said Craig Lilyquist, Spokane County’s senior facilities manager.
“The work had been completed last week, but we’re in the process of getting it online,” Lilyquist said.
That’s why the new alarms didn’t detect Saturday’s blaze. Smoke was discovered by parents visiting their children in the juvenile detention center. The fire quickly was doused by firefighters upon their arrival.
The blaze will cost the county about $10,000, said Steve Bartel, county risk management supervisor. He said much of the expense is caused by the jail having to pay a company to do the jail’s laundry until a new dryer is installed.
The county decided to install the heat and smoke detection system after a November fire burned undetected for up to an hour in the juvenile probation department, causing more than $100,000 in damage.
Both fires caused the evacuation of the juvenile jail to a walled outdoor recreation area. Saturday’s evacuation process went well, said Bonnie Bush, Spokane County Juvenile Court director.
“Having this new system is very reassuring,” Bush said.