Westside Elementary evacuated Thursday due to smoky library

A downed power line was responsible for knocking out electricity for about two-and-a-half hours Thursday morning on the west side of Hood River, as well as indirectly sparking a small fire at Westside Elementary that sent smoke through the school and triggered an evacuation.

West Side Fire Department Fire Marshall Jim Trammell said a downed wire at the corner of St. Charles Place and Belmont Drive caused a power outage at approximately 7:45 Thursday morning. The outage, in turn, caused a HVAC motor in the ceiling of Westside Elementary to burn out, sending smoke through a ventilation duct and into the school library.

Barb Cooper, secretary at Westside Elementary, said the smoke caused “a light haze” to descend upon the library and set off fire alarms, right when students were arriving to start their school day. Staff had to evacuate the school and stop arriving students from entering the building.

Students were ushered to the school’s playground where they tried to stay warm on a morning where temperatures stayed well below freezing. Some kids did not come prepared for the weather and Cooper said school staff “improvised” and handed out coats for students to share.

Students were outside for less than 30 minutes while West Side firefighters located the smoking motor. Trammell said there was no smoke damage to the school and teachers were able to resume their lessons, albeit, without power.

Cooper reported that the school just happened to run a fire drill on Wednesday, which undoubtedly helped Thursday’s evacuation go as smooth as it did.

“Kids, staff — everyone was great,” Cooper said.

Tom Gauntt, spokesperson for Pacific Power, which supplies electricity to the Hood River area, said the outage affected 1,100 customers on portions of Country Club Road, Belmont, Indian Creek Road, Firwood Drive, and Post Canyon. The downed line was repaired and service was returned at around 10:15 a.m.

The cause of the downed wire is unknown, but Trammell suspected ice crystals on the power line may have played a role in its failure.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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