Fire closes Tri-Tech Skills Center until Monday

KENNEWICK -- The Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick will remain closed until Monday because of air-quality issues caused by a small fire.

The fire started around 9 p.m. Tuesday in a commercial dishwasher in the production kitchen of the school's culinary arts program, said Capt. Joe Terpenning, a fire investigator with the Kennewick Fire Department.

Flames spread from the appliance's motor wiring to a thick rubber mat that was on the tile floor beneath the dishwasher, Terpenning said.

The dishwasher was not running at the time, said Paul Randall, the school's assistant director.

The school's sprinkler system activated and nothing but the rubber mat burned. But the burning rubber created enough smoke to fill a third of the school, and soot settled on surfaces.

Initially, only Wednesday's classes were canceled. But when workers inspected the school's ventilation system, they found it had considerable soot inside it as well, said Lorraine Cooper, spokeswoman for the Kennewick School District. It will take a few days to clean out the ducts.

Classes for the estimated 860 students are expected to resume Monday.

Tri-Tech's cosmetology programs, which regularly are held at Clare's Beauty College and Victoria's Academy of Cosmetology, will continue as usual.

The teen parent nursery in a portable classroom outside of the main building also will be open today and Friday.