Wednesday, January 11, 2006

fire at Civic; show will go on

At approximately 4:30 am Wednesday, Jan. 11, a fire broke out in the tunnel area on the east side of Spokane Civic Theatre, adjacent to the Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre, the green room and a storage area.
No one was injured, but there was extensive damage.
"The theater is still operational," says Artistic Director Yvonne A.K. Johnson, emphasizing that SCT still has electrical power for its Main Stage, lobby and office areas. The show will go on: Johnson is quite confident that upcoming productions like *I'll Be Back Before Midnight* (Main Stage) and "Proof" (downstairs) will go on as scheduled.
The Civic recently learned that it needs to replace its steam boiler. The fire burned into the boiler area and actually melted insulation, electrical wires and the control system.
Fortunately, the fire doors in the tunnel area held -- "otherwise," says Johnson, "the entire theatre might have gone up."

While there were no witnesses, the Spokane Fire Department, according to Johnson, pointed to the probability that transients may have set the fire. Johnson says that "transients have a history of living in the tunnel and on the west side of the theater." The fire department, says Johnson, noted that "it got very cold around 4:30, and then the wind kicked up."

While not wanting to appear insensitive to the plight of the homeless, Johnson also has obvious responsibilities to the theater. "The transient issue has been a problem since I've been here," she says. Above and beyond the necessary repairs to the theater and its electrical system, the Civic will need to take measures to improve security. Johnson has gotten approval from the Civic's board to install a gate on the tunnel area, to clear out all brush and trees along the theater's western edge and to install high-intensity lighting in that area.

The theater was insured, "though there will be a deductible," says Johnson. Technical Director Peter Hardie was one of the first on the scene, at 6:30 am, and has already begun rigging temporary lighting for the Civic's scene shop, costume shop and Studio Theatre.

Unfortunately, the damage from the fire -- and the fact that the entire lower level of the Civic is temporarily without power -- makes the Jan. 15 fund-raiser at the theater all the more imperative. Floods and fire -- are locusts next for the Civic?


At January 11, 2006 1:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, when it rains, it pours. Makes you appreciate how blessed Civic must have been for its first sixty years to avoid these kinds of catastrophes.

At January 11, 2006 3:33 PM , Blogger Rideout said...

Uhhh... Boiler cracks, arson fires, transients lurking in the shadows...

AND I hear tell there's a murderous ol' hermit round these parts. We do open on Friday the 13th after all. Think Scooby Doo and Shaggy will show up to save us?!?!

At January 11, 2006 8:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never thought I'd be happy for those cinder block walls! From what I saw while mucking out the debris in the tunnel, there isn't "extensive" structural damage. The electrical system for the back half of the building is another matter. I was told at one point we should be restored by next Tuesday. In the meantime, costume rentals will be closed, and some of us will be working at home.

Thanks for all the concern and support today.


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