The Yakima Fire Department responded to the Yakima County Courthouse around 7:30 this morning for reported smoke on the 3rd floor of the courthouse. Employees were coming to work when some noticed they could smell smoke on the 2nd through 4th floors. An employee quickly pulled a fire pull station inside the building to activate the alarm as the smell was getting stronger.

The first arriving engine company found smoke coming from between two butted up sections of the Yakima County Courthouse. The fire occurred in the area of demolition of the old County jail. This fire required all fire engines in the city as it was unknown how large or if evacuations of the building would be needed. The fire was located in a void space between the old Courthouse on N 2nd Street and the “newer” old section off of MLK Blvd.

“This was a difficult, manpower intensive fire to extinguish.” Stated Jeff Pfaff, Fire Prevention Captain and YFD PIO. “This was a difficult fire to access as it was between the 2nd and 3rd floor levels and was between the two buildings with a gap of about 6-10 inches the full length of the buildings”. said Pfaff.

It took crews nearly three hours of sifting through smoldering wood fiber products between the buildings that was used to keep the birds, bugs and debris out over the years. “It was old and dry pressed fiber board and plywood that burnt fast once it found enough air to continue to burn”. states Pfaff.

The people in the Courthouse evacuated safely and no one was injured.
Early on in the fire, a decision was made by Yakima County Commissioners to close the courthouse and send employees home for the day.

Investigators are ruling this fire as accidental.
The cause of the fire was a cutting torch to cut a beam in the corner of origin around 10 PM last night. The contractor working at the site monitored and stayed last night for a minimum of a 2-hour fire watch after cutting, which is a typical practice when this type of work is done.

It appears the embers from the cut last night, smoldered most of the night behind the siding, finally igniting just after 7:30 this morning.